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Kyrgyzstan's Ex-Grand Mufti Implicated In Corruption Case Released From Custody


Supporters of the former grand mufti protest outside UKMK headquarters on February 11.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's former top Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Maksatbek Hajji Toktomushev, has been released from custody and ordered not to leave Bishkek while investigations are carried out over allegations of corruption.

A court in Bishkek ruled late on February 11 that Toktomushev may be released as long as he does not leave the capital until the case goes to trial.

Dozens of Toktomushev's supporters rallied in front of the court building while the former grand mufti's pretrial restrictions were being defined.

On February 10, the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said Toktomushev was suspected of being involved in the alleged misuse of funds raised by worshipers for a hajj pilgrimage to Mecca later this year.

Toktomushev, who in his capacity was also head of Kyrgyzstan's Religious Directorate -- the state agency in charge of Islamic affairs -- had handed in his resignation over the affair on February 10.

The directorate's press office told RFE/RL that Toktomushev's place will be taken by his deputy until a replacement is elected.

The UKMK announced on February 10 that the directorate's chief accountant, whose identity was not disclosed at the time, had been arrested on suspicion of misusing the equivalent of almost $2 million raised by worshipers.

According to the UKMK, the accountant's arrest occurred on February 9 during an alleged attempt to bribe a UKMK officer.

On February 12, the Birinchi Mai district court sent the accountant, who was identified as Jenishbai Bekiev, to pretrial detention until April 10.

The directorate's press office has said that it won't publicly comment on the case until after the trial.

A majority of the Central Asian nation's population of 6 million are Sunni Muslims.

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