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Kyrgyz Top Court Quashes Verdict, Orders Retrial Of Opposition Politician Tekebaev

Supporters of Ata-Meken party leader Omurbek Tekebaev rally for his release in Bishkek in April.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court has canceled the guilty verdicts against jailed opposition politicians Omurbek Tekebaev and Duishonkul Chotonov.

The court on August 21 sent the case back to the Birinchi Mai district court in Bishkek, citing "newly revealed circumstances."

In 2017, Tekebaev and his co-defendant, former Emergency Situations Minister Chotonov, were convicted of bribe-taking and sentenced to eight years in prison each. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Their lawyers filed the appeal to revise the case saying they had evidence showing that a key witness, Russian businessman Leonid Mayevsky, had lied during the trial.

Tekebaev is the leader of the opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, which has insisted that the case was a politically motivated effort to keep him out of a presidential vote in October 2017.

Tekebaev and Chotonov in August 2017 were found guilty of receiving a $1 million bribe from Mayevsky in 2010, when Tekebaev was deputy prime minister.

Tekebaev was arrested in February 2017, months after he turned into a vocal critic of then-President Almazbek Atambaev.

The court's decision to revise the case comes less than two weeks after Atambaev was arrested on August 8 after he surrendered to police following a violent two-day standoff between security forces and his supporters.

Kyrgyz authorities had initially said that Atambaev faced five counts of criminally abusing his office during his 2011-17 term.

After the violent standoff, which resulted in the death of a security officer and more than 170 injuries, additional charges were filed against the ex-president; these include using violence against representatives of the authorities, organizing mass unrest, masterminding a murder attempt, hostage taking, and illegal use of firearms.