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Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Remanded In Pretrial Detention In Kumtor Case

Temir Sariev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariev, who was charged with corruption during the development of the Kumtor gold mine project, has been remanded in pretrial detention.

Dozens of Sariev's supporters rallied in front of the Bishkek City Court on August 25 as the court rejected Sariev's request to be transferred to house arrest.

The 58-year-old Sariev, who served as the Central Asian nation's economy minister from 2011-15 and as prime minister in 2015-16, was arrested in early August and charged with allegedly aiding Canada's Centerra Gold Company, Kumtor's operator, in covering up ecological damage caused by its mining operations.

Last week, another former prime minister, Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev, who was also charged with corruption in the Kumtor case, was released from pretrial detention on condition that he doesn't leave the country.

Kumtor has been a target of financial and environmental disagreements for years. It is currently the subject of an ongoing battle for control between the Kyrgyz state and Centerra Gold.

Earlier this year, the Kyrgyz government temporarily took 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."

Several former top officials have been arrested in connection with the case in recent months, including former Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov, who 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.

Earlier this month, investigators questioned two former Kyrgyz presidents, Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Askar Akaev, in the high-profile case.