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Kyrgyz Ex-President Atambaev's Closed-Door Trial Begins

Almazbek Atambaev and supporters attend a meeting with journalists in the village of Koy-Tash near Bishkek on June 27.

Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has gone on trial behind closed doors, charged with illegally releasing a jailed organized crime boss in 2013, his defense lawyers say.

Atambaev, who denies any wrongdoing, refused to answer questions during the trial in protest, lawyer Sergei Slesarev told reporters on November 29. Atambaev, 63, had declined to attend his preliminary hearings in the Birninchi Mai district court.

The charge against Atambaev is linked to the release of notorious crime boss Aziz Batukaev, who was convicted for several high-profile crimes -- including the murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry official. Atambaev faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The former leader was arrested on August 8 after he surrendered to police following a deadly two-day standoff between security forces and his supporters. Last month, Atambaev’s pretrial detention was extended until December 26.

The former president is also suspected of committing 13 other crimes, including organization of murder, organization of mass disturbances, and taking servicemen hostage during the clashes at his residence this summer, his lawyers said.

Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from Atambaev to Sooronbai Jeenbekov, which was welcomed by the international community after presidential changes -- in 2005 and 2010 -- came after violent rioting.

Once close allies, relations between the two soured after the state prosecutor charged Atambaev on the basis of accusations leveled against him by a legislature loyal to Jeenbekov.

With reporting by Reuters,, and AFP