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Kyrgyzstan Extends Ex-President Atambaev's Detention For Two More Months

Former President Almazbek Atambaev
Former President Almazbek Atambaev

The pretrial detention of former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has been extended by a further two months after he refused to attend hearings in a corruption trial where he is the main defendant, his lawyer said.

The 63-year-old ex-ally of current President Sooronbai Jeenbekov was arrested in August following clashes between his armed supporters and special forces, which led to the death of a senior police officer.

Atambaev's lawyer, Sergei Slesarev, said on October 25 that the former leader will remain in pretrial custody at least until December 26 after a court ruling earlier this month and that Atambaev would continue to refuse to attend the hearings.

"His plans have not changed. He does not intend to cooperate with the court," Slesarev told AFP.

Atambaev's trial started on October 15 without his presence.

The court in August said the charge against the 63-year-old Atambaev is linked to the 2013 illegal 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.

More than 15 former officials and medical personnel are co-defendants in the case.

Atambaev, who has denied any wrongdoing, 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.

The move to detain Atambaev was sparked by his refusal to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning in an unspecified investigation.

The standoff between security forces and his supporters resulted in the death of a top security officer and more than 170 injuries -- 79 of them sustained by law enforcement officers.

The violence underscored a power struggle between Atambaev and his handpicked successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, that has raised fears of instability in the Central Asian nation.

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 lawyer said.

Kyrgyzstan saw a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from Atambaev to 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 AFP