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Kyrgyz Court Rejects Ex-PM's Appeal Against Pretrial Detention

Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov
Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov

BISHKEK -- The Bishkek City Court has rejected former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov's appeal against his pretrial detention in a corruption investigation connected to the Central Asian country's largest gold mine.

The court ruled on June 22 that a previous decision by the Birinchi Mai district court to hold Babanov in pretrial custody until July 31 was legal and refused to accept the former prime minister's request to be transferred to house arrest.

Dozens of Babanov's supporters gathered in front of the court building to demand his release. After the court's decision was announced, they marched to the government's headquarters holding posters saying "Freedom to Babanov!"

Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (UKMK) detained Babanov on May 31, accusing him of corruption in a case related to the Kumtor gold mine, which is operated by Canada's Centerra Gold company.

Babanov has rejected the charges as "absurd." Several other former officials and current lawmakers were also arrested in the case.

The Kyrgyz government has temporarily taken over control of the Kumtor gold mine in what President Sadyr Japarov said was a necessary move to address environmental and safety violations.

Centerra has called Kyrgyzstan's actions "wrongful and illegal."

On May 16, the Canadian firm said it had "initiated binding arbitration to enforce its rights under long-standing investment agreements with the government."

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