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Libel Lawsuit Piles Pressure On Kyrgyz Ex-President Atambaev

In an interview that aired on December 10, Almazbek Atambaev accused the three ex-officials of looking for political opportunities to enrich themselves. 

Three Kyrgyz politicians have filed a libel lawsuit against former President Almazbek Atambaev and a TV channel he founded, adding to pressure on the ex-leader.

The channel, Aprel (April), said on December 27 that former parliament speaker Akmatbek Keldibekov, former State Committee for National Security chief Keneshbek Duishebaev, and former Prosecutor-General Azimbek Beknazarov had accused Atambaev and the channel of insulting them in an interview Atambaev gave to the channel.

The channel said that the trio was demanding 18 million soms ($260,000) from Atambaev and Aprel Director Dmitry Lozhnikov in compensation for what they called "disseminating false information" about them. They also want the channel to retract statements Atambaev made in the interview.

In an interview that aired on December 10, Atambaev criticized Keldibekov, Duishebaev, and Beknazarov, accusing them of looking for political opportunities to enrich themselves.

Aprel quoted Lozhnikov as saying that he was ready to prove in court that the interview was conducted in compliance with journalistic standards and that Atambaev's remarks will not be retracted.

The lawsuit was filed amid growing signs of tension between Atambaev and the Central Asian state's current president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

Limited to a single six-year term by the constitution, Atambaev tapped his prime minister, Jeenbekov, as his favored successor in the October 2017 presidential election.

But the two have traded public criticism in recent months, and several associates of Atambaev have been arrested on corruption charges.

On December 13, the Kyrgyz parliament approved in the first reading a bill that would eliminate immunity for ex-presidents, potentially opening the path for Atambaev's prosecution.

In recent weeks some members of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDPK), which Atambaev heads and of which Jeenbekeov is a member, launched a campaign dubbed "SDPK without Atambaev."

Two Atambaev allies who also served as prime minister when he was president, Sapar Isakov and Jantoro Satybaldiev, were arrested in June on corruption charges.

In October, former Atambaev adviser Ikramjan Ilmiyanov was detained in Russia and returned to Bishkek, where he was arrested on corruption charges.

Kyrgyz lawmakers and other politicians have been calling for an investigation into some of the decisions made by Atambaev while he was in office.

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