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Kyrgyz Court Postpones Ex-President's Trial Amid State Of Emergency

Ex-President Almazbek Atambaev speaks to the media outside his compound in Koi Tash on June 27, 2019.

BISHKEK -- 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 has been postponed because of the state of emergency announced in the country because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Birinchi Mai district court in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, was to restart the high-profile trial behind closed doors on March 30, after postponing it a week earlier when Atambaev experienced a drop in blood pressure.

However, the court announced on March 30 that it was shutting the trial down for the time being due to the government's March 25 declaration of a state of emergency in Bishkek, as well as the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad and several districts in the south.

During the state of emergency, which has been called until April 15, all activities at public offices and institutions, including courts, are to be suspended as the government tries to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Deputy Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov said on March 30 that the total number of registered coronavirus cases in the country had reached 94 after 10 more people tested positive in the southern Jalal-Abad region.

It is not clear when exactly Atambaev's trial will resume.

In August 2019, 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 the 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 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 after violent rioting.

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