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Ex-Presidents Can Be Prosecuted If Stripped Of Status, Kyrgyz Bill Says

Former President Almazbek Atambaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- A bill that had initially been drafted amid calls to prosecute former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev preserves immunity from prosecution for former presidents, but also states that prosecution could be possible if the person in question loses the status of ex-president.

According to the bill, which was given final approval by parliament in a 111-3 vote on April 4, the legislature can strip a former president of that status if they are suspected of "especially serious crimes" by the Prosecutor-General's Office.

It is not clear what the bill, which will become law if it is signed by President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, defines as an "especially serious crime."

One of the authors of the legislation, Iskhak Masaliev of the Onuguu-Progress party, said he opposed the final language of the bill.

Masaliev said the original intention of the bill was to remove immunity for former presidents, but the language upon its final reading had been altered in a way that, "on the contrary, increased the immunity."

The bill was drafted after the Constitutional Chamber ruled in early October that the law providing former presidents with lifetime immunity from prosecution for their activities during their presidential terms contradicted the constitution.

The legislation was approved in its first reading in December amid calls by some lawmakers and other politicians for an investigation into decisions made by Atambaev while he was in office.

It was later amended with several proposals by other lawmakers.

The discussions of the issue of annulling former presidents' immunity from prosecution have been under consideration amid a standoff between Jeenbekov and Atambaev.

Limited to a single six-year term by the constitution, Atambaev tapped Jeenbekov, his former prime minister, as his favored successor in the October 2017 presidential election.

But the two have had a public falling out and have criticized each other for more than a year. Several associates of Atambaev have been arrested on corruption charges.