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Jailed Former Kyrgyz President Atambaev On Hunger Strike To Protest Detention Conditions

Kyrgyzstan's former President Almazbek Atambaev pictured in Bishkek on October 9
Kyrgyzstan's former President Almazbek Atambaev pictured in Bishkek on October 9

BISHKEK -- Jailed former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has started a hunger strike to protest his transfer to Bishkek's central detention center from the holding facility at the State Committee of the National Security (UKMK).

Atambaev's lawyer, Zamir Jooshev, told reporters in Bishkek on October 26 that his client has heart problems and bronchitis and his transfer to "the tougher penitentiary" might worsen his medical condition.

"He is now being kept in an underground cell where they used to keep inmates on death row. The cell hasn't been used in a long time. The heating in the cell was turned on only today, the sewage system doesn't work, the cell's door is kept open. Due to this, Almazbek Atambaev stated he has gone on a hunger strike," Jooshev said.

UKMK officials confirmed to RFE/RL that Atambaev was transferred to the central detention center in Bishkek, citing a court decision.

The State Penitentiary Service (GSIN) on October 26 said it had not been informed officially of Atambaev's decision to start a hunger strike.

According to the GSIN, the sewage system and heating in Atambaev's cell are working properly, while the cell's door is locked and the former president is under constant surveillance via a video camera installed in his cell.

It added that Atambaev's possible transfer to another detention center will be decided soon.

On October 6, during mass protests against official results from parliamentary elections two days earlier, Atambaev was released from the UKMK detention center in Bishkek.

He was rearrested on October 10 and additionally charged with organizing an illegal demonstration in Bishkek on October 9.

Earlier in June, Atambaev was sentenced to 11 years and two months in prison for his involvement in the illegal release of notorious crime boss Aziz Batukaev in 2013.

Aziz Batukaev, who was unexpectedly released from prison in 2013 and immediately left the Central Asian nation 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 2019 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 senior security officer and more than 170 injuries -- 79 of them sustained by law enforcement officers.

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