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Ex-Kyrgyz President's Prison Sentence Upheld

Ex-President Almazbek Atambaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- The Bishkek City Court has upheld a lower court's ruling sentencing former President Almazbek Atambaev to 11 years and two months in prison for the illegal release of notorious crime boss Aziz Batukaev in 2013.

Atambaev's lawyer, Sergei Slesarev, told reporters that the defense team will decide on its further steps after it obtains a copy of the court's ruling.

The Birinchi Mai district court in Bishkek sentenced Atambaev in June after finding him guilty of corruption.

Atambaev has denied any wrongdoing.

Aziz Batukaev, who was unexpectedly released from prison in 2013 and immediately left the country for Russia, was convicted of several notorious crimes -- including the murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry official.

Atambaev was arrested in early August last year 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 summons to appear at the Interior Ministry for questioning involving Batukaev's release.

The standoff between security forces and his supporters resulted in the death of a 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, which has raised fears of instability in the Central Asian country.

The former president is currently also on trial in another case linked to last year's violence, in which he and 13 others are charged with murder, attempted murder, threatening or assaulting state representatives, hostage taking, and the forcible seizure of power.

Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power in 2017 from Atambaev, a northerner, to southerner Jeenbekov, which was welcomed by the international community after presidential changes -- in 2005 and 2010 -- came after revolts.