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Two Former Kyrgyz Prime Ministers Transferred To House Arrest In Kumtor Case

Joomart Otorbaev (left) and Temir Sariev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- Two former Kyrgyz prime ministers, who were charged with alleged corruption during the development of the Kumtor gold-mine project, have been transferred to house arrest from pretrial custody in a detention center.

A court in Bishkek ruled on November 20 to release Joomart Otorbaev and Temir Sariev and transfer them to house arrest after they signed papers saying they would not leave the country.

The two are among several former prime ministers and other senior officials arrested in connection with the Kumtor project in recent months.

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

In August, investigators questioned two former Kyrgyz presidents, Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Askar Akaev, in the high-profile case.