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Former Kyrgyz President Jeenbekov Questioned As 'Witness' In Kumtor Mine Investigation


Sooronbai Jeenbekov served as president from 2017 until his resignation last year, following street protests triggered by disputed parliamentary elections. (file photo)

Kyrgyz authorities have questioned former Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov as part of a widening investigation into alleged corruption during the development of the Kumtor gold-mine project.

The State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said on August 13 that Jeenbekov was considered a witness in the case and that his questioning related to the 2016-17 period when he served as the Central Asian nation's prime minister.

Jeenbekov served as president from 2017 until his resignation last year, following street protests triggered by disputed parliamentary elections.

Kumtor has been a target of financial and environmental disagreements for years and is currently the subject of an ongoing battle for control between the Kyrgyz state and the mine's Canadian operator, Centerra Gold.

The Kyrgyz government has temporarily taken over control of the mine in what President Sadyr Japarov has called a necessary move to address environmental and safety violations.

Centerra has called Kyrgyzstan's actions "wrongful and illegal."

In May, the Canadian firm said it had "initiated binding arbitration to enforce its rights under long-standing investment agreements with the government."

Jeenbekov's questioning comes less than two weeks after Kyrgyzstan’s first president, Askar Akaev, visited Bishkek for the first time since he was ousted by demonstrations in 2005 to be questioned about the Kumtor case.

Akaev left for Moscow last weekend after spending several days in the country.

Several former top officials have been arrested in connection with the case in recent months, including former Prime Minister Temir Sariev, who is still in custody.

Another detained ex-prime minister, Omurbek Babanov, was released last month and allowed to travel abroad to receive medical treatment for an unspecified illness.

Deputy Prime Minister Taiyrbek Sarpashev was remanded in custody in the case.

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