BISHKEK – A court has postponed for one week the trial of former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev and 13 co-defendants over deadly clashes with security forces last year at Atambaev's compound in a Bishkek suburb.
The Birinchi Mai district court in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, began the high-profile trial behind closed doors on March 23, but almost immediately adjourned the hearing after Atambaev experienced a drop in blood pressure.
The court abruptly stopped the hearing and said it would adjourn until March 30.
Before announcing the delay, the judge added that he was rejecting a defense motion to remove himself from the trial because he had ruled it would be held behind closed doors.
Defense attorneys claimed Atambaev had “no confidence” in the procedure because of this move.
Last August, security officials were sent to Atambaev's compound in Koi-Tash near Bishkek after he refused to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning in an investigation into his alleged involvement in the illegal release of a jailed organized-crime boss in 2013.
Atambaev was arrested on August 8 after he surrendered to police following a violent two-day standoff.
The standoff by the former president and his supporters resulted in the death of a 47-year-old security officer, Usenbek Niyazbekov, and injuries to more than 170 others, including 79 law enforcement officers.
Atambaev and the 13 co-defendants were charged with murder, attempted murder, threatening or assaulting representatives of authorities, hostage taking, and forced power seizure.
All 14 defendants pleaded not guilty and called the case against them politically motivated.
Five more defendants in the case made plea deals with investigators and will be tried separately.
The 63-year-old former president currently faces a separate trial for charges linked to the release of the crime boss. Aziz Batukaev was convicted of several high-profile crimes, including the murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry official, before his release in 2013.
Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from Atambaev to his ally, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a move welcomed by the international community after presidential transitions -- in 2005 and 2010 -- came after violent rioting.
However, the deadly clashes in August at Atambaev's compound underscored a power struggle between him and Jeenbekov and raised fears of instability in the Central Asian country.