BISHKEK -- The leader of Kyrgyzstan's Ata-Meken (Fatherland) opposition party has been convicted on a corruption charge that he contends is politically motivated.
A court in Bishkek ruled on December 19 that Almambet Shykmamatov illegally arranged the purchase of a Mercedes for his wife using state financial structures. It ordered him to pay a fine of 5 million soms ($71,500).
Shykmamatov maintains his innocence, insisting that the case against him is politically motivated.
Shykmamatov took over the Ata-Meken party in March after its leader Omurbek Tekebaev, a former parliament speaker, was arrested in February. He was convicted of bribery in August and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Tekebaev denies being guilty, and supporters contend that the case was fabricated to prevent him from running in the Central Asian country's October 15 presidential election.
Outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev's preferred successor, former Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov, won the election and was sworn in on November 24.
Another leader of Ata-Meken, former Prosecutor-General Aida Salyanova, was charged with corruption in March, days after Tekebaev's arrest.
In October, Salyanova was found guilty and handed a five-year suspended sentence. Salyanova has maintained her innocence, saying the case against her was politically motivated.
In early November, masked assailants shot Salyanova's brother dead in his house in Bishkek. Ata-Meken party members say that killing was also politically motivated.