BISHKEK – Kyrgyz authorities have taken into custody a former prime minister and a former mayor of Bishkek in a graft case related to modernization work at a power plant in the capital city.
Former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov on June 5 was ordered jailed in pretrial detention for two months, a week after he was charged with corruption.
The ruling by the Birinchi Mai District Court in the capital came after the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) summoned Isakov for a fourth time in the case since his cabinet was dismissed in April following a no-confidence vote.
The former mayor of Bishkek, Kubanychbek Kulmatov, who was taken into custody on the same day, will remain in detention until June 28, his lawyer said.
Kulmatov, who had also served as the head of the State Customs Service, was charged with corruption on May 18.
In separate statements, the UKMK said that Isakov and Kulmatov would be jailed for the duration of the investigation, adding that they were charged with corruption and ordered not to leave the country.
As he was being escorted from the court building by guards, Isakov said the judge's decision was "totally unjust."
The charge against Isakov stems from 2013, when he was implementing a project to modernize the Bishkek Thermal Power Station while serving as deputy head of the administration of former President Almazbek Atambaev.
He is accused of using his position to lobby for the interests of a Chinese company in the selection process of a contractor for the modernization of the power plant, inflicting great damage on the Kyrgyz state and society.
The Chinese company TBEA has been selected as the winner of the tender. The case was launched after an accident at the Bishkek power station in January left thousands of households in the capital without heat for several days last winter.
Isakov, who denies wrongdoing, had suggested he believed the state may mount a corruption case against former officials over the heating outages, but said Atambaev and his team had “worked in a clean way, with no corruption whatsoever."
Both Isakov and Kulmatov are considered to be close associates of Atambaev.
The pressure on Isakov was seen as one of several examples of an ongoing rift between President Sooronbai Jeenbekov and his predecessor, Atambaev, who backed Jeenbekov in the October presidential election but has criticized him in recent weeks.
In April, Jeenbekov fired several Atambaev allies, including Prosecutor-General Indira Joldubaeva and UKMK head Abdil Segizbaev, who had been criticized for a crackdown on opposition politicians and independent journalists.
A well-known Bishkek-based lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov, wrote on Facebook on June 4 that Kyrgyzstan's Constitutional Chamber had accepted his motion to find unconstitutional the existing law that gives former presidents full immunity from prosecution.