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Trial Postponed Again After Former Kyrgyz Leader Fails To Show Up

Almazbek Atambaev pictured in June.

BISHKEK -- Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev's trial has been adjourned for a second time after he refused once again to attend the court session over whether he broke the law by authorizing the release of an imprisoned crime boss.

The Birinchi Mai District Court in Bishkek on October 14 adjourned the trial for one day.

The 63-year-old former leader’s lawyer, Zamir Jooshev, told RFE/RL on October 14 that the trial can be held without his client's presence.

The hearing was initially scheduled for October 11 but was adjourned until October 14 after Atambaev refused to show up. His lawyer called it a "show trial" and noted that his client is refusing to cooperate with investigators in this and other ongoing investigations against him.

The Birinchi Mai district court in August said the charge against Atambaev is linked to the 2013 illegal release of notorious crime boss Aziz Batukaev, who was convicted for several high-profile crimes -- including the murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry official.

More than 15 former officials and medical personnel are co-defendents in the case.

Atambaev, who has denied any wrongdoing, faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted.

The former leader was arrested on August 8 after he surrendered to police following a deadly two-day standoff between security forces and his supporters.

The move to detain Atambaev was sparked by his refusal to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning in an unspecified investigation.

The standoff between security forces and his supporters resulted in one death of a top security officer and more than 170 injuries -- 79 of them sustained by law-enforcement officers.

The violence underscored a power struggle between Atambaev and his handpicked successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, that has raised fears of instability in the Central Asian nation.

The former president is also suspected of committing 13 other crimes, including organization of murder, organization of mass disturbances, and taking servicemen hostage during the clashes at his residence this summer, his lawyer said.

Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from Atambaev, a northerner, to southerner Jeenbekov, which was welcomed by the international community after presidential changes -- in 2005 and 2010 -- came after violent rioting.

Once close allies, relations between the two soured after the state prosecutor charged Atambaev on the basis of accusations leveled against him by a legislature loyal to Jeenbekov.

Several of Atambaev's close allies had already been arrested on corruption charges and the two former friends began trading accusations of incompetence and a lack of professionalism.

After parliament on June 27 voted to strip immunity from prosecution for former presidents, the embattled Atambaev retreated to spend most of his time at his residential compound.

His lawyer called the immunity vote unconstitutional, and Atambaev warned that he had weapons at the compound.

Russia has a military base in Kyrgyzstan, and President Vladimir Putin has met separately with both Atambaev and Jeenbekov since their fallout.