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Judge Bars Kyrgyz Ex-President From Attending His Own Trial

Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev Atambaev was arrested last year after he surrendered to police following a violent two-day standoff. (file photo)

BISHKEK -- A judge in Bishkek has barred former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev from being present at his high-profile trial after the ex-leader of the Central Asian nation refused to sit together with other defendants in the courtroom’s caged area.

Judge Marat Sydykov of the Birinchi Mai District Court in Bishkek announced the decision on June 1 as the trial over deadly clashes with security forces last year at Atambaev's compound in a Bishkek suburb resumed.

Atambaev's lawyer, Sergei Slesarev, told reporters that guards had taken his client out of the courtroom after the judge ruled that Atambaev will not be present in the courtroom until the trial is over.

Slesarev said that Atambaev, who had sat at an open desk next to his lawyers in the trial's previous sessions, had a right not to sit together with other defendants because he was charged in another case as well.

Dozens of Atambaev’s supporters and opponents rallied in front of the court's building as the trial resumed.

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On May 11, the judge sustained the prosecutor's demand to have Atambaev seated with other defendants on the bench in the glass-caged compartment.

The high-profile trial has been postponed several times since March due to Atambaev’s health problems, the failure of some defendants' lawyers to show up, and because of the state of emergency imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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 involving 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.

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Atambaev and the 13 co-defendants were charged with murder, attempted murder, threatening or assaulting representatives of authorities, hostage-taking and the forcible seizure of power.

All 14 defendants have pleaded not guilty and call 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, who had been convicted for several high-profile crimes, including the murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry official, before his illegal 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 following violent rioting.

However, the deadly clashes in August at Atambaev's compound underscored a power struggle between him and Jeenbekov.