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Kyrgyz NTS TV On Air Despite Impoundment Of Property

An NTS editor said that court officers had compiled an inventory of the broadcaster's property and announced that it was impounded.

BISHKEK -- The television station belonging to Kyrgyz opposition politician Omurbek Babanov is on the air despite the fact that its property has been impounded by the authorities.

NTS editor Aziat Jeksheev told RFE/RL on December 21 that court officers had compiled an inventory of the broadcaster's property on December 20 and announced that it was impounded.

But NTS Director Jainak Uson-uulu was placed in temporary charge of the impounded property, allowing the channel to remain on air for now, Jeksheev said.

NTS had managed to keep some programs on air after court officers and police raided the media outlet on December 19, Jeksheev said. He said that Uson-uulu will remain in charge of the impounded property until a court decision in the case against the station.

NTS lawyer Amantur Abdrakhmanov told RFE/RL on December 20 that a December 19 court decision to impound the television channel's property resulted from a lawsuit filed by a company called Grexton Capital LTD, which claims that NTS owes it money.

A Justice Ministry document in a database compiled by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project indicates that a company with a similar name, Grexton Trade Company, was established in Bishkek in October 2006 by Grexton Investment Group and is headed by Sergei Kostyrin.

Kostyrin is an associate of Maksim Bakiev -- a son of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was ousted by protests and fled the country in 2010. Both are wanted in Kyrgyzstan and live abroad.

A court in Bishkek on December 20 sentenced Kurmanbek Bakiev and his brother Janysh Bakiev, a former head of the state bodyguard service, to 10 years in prison each in absentia in an illegal-land-use case.

Judge Damirbek Nazarov of Bishkek's Oktyabr district court said that, taking into account previous convictions in absentia, Kurmanbek Bakiev's total sentence now stood at 30 years in prison and Janysh Bakiev's at life in prison.

Maksim Bakiev was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for embezzling millions of dollars of state funds in October 2014.

NTS owner Babanov is a businessman who lost the October 15 presidential election but left the country after an investigation was launched into charges he incited ethnic hatred while campaigning for the election.

The whereabouts of Babanov, who denies the allegations and lives abroad, is not known.

He wrote on Facebook on December 20 that the steps taken against NTS, the largest private TV station in Kyrgyzstan, were "unimaginable" and claimed that his television channel was being "seized by a raid."

Babanov accused Kyrgyz officials of acting in the interests of Maksim Bakiev.

The raid on NTS is likely to spark new concerns about media freedom under President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, the ruling-party candidate who won the election with backing from outgoing leader Almazbek Atambaev and took office on November 24.

NTS carries some RFE/RL programming.