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Retrial Of Two Kyrgyz Opposition Figures Kicks Off In Bishkek

Omurbek Tekebaev and Duishonkul Chotonov in a Bishkek courtroom.
Omurbek Tekebaev and Duishonkul Chotonov in a Bishkek courtroom.

BISHKEK -- A court in Bishkek has started the retrial of two Kyrgyz opposition politicians, Omurbek Tekebaev and Duishonkul Chotonov, who had been transferred to house arrest in late August after their convictions were struck down.

The Birinchi Mai district court started the retrial of the high-profile case on September 12 with the judge telling journalists they can record audio, but not video, of the proceedings.

Tekebaev and Chotonov were released from custody on August 29, eight days after Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court canceled guilty verdicts against the two and sent their cases back to the court, citing "newly revealed circumstances."

In 2017, Tekebaev and his co-defendant, former Emergency Situations Minister Chotonov, were convicted of bribe-taking and sentenced to eight years in prison each. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Their lawyers filed the appeal to revise the case saying they had evidence showing that a key witness, Russian businessman Leonid Mayevsky, had lied during the trial.

Tekebaev is the leader of the opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, which has insisted that the case was a politically motivated effort to keep him out of a presidential vote in October 2017.

Tekebaev was arrested in February 2017, months after he turned into a vocal critic of then-President Almazbek Atambaev.

The court's decision to revise the case came less than two weeks after Atambaev was arrested on August 8 after he surrendered to police following a violent two-day standoff between security forces and his supporters.

Kyrgyz authorities had initially said that Atambaev faced five counts of criminally abusing his office during his 2011-17 term.

After the violent standoff, which resulted in the death of a security officer and more than 170 injuries, additional charges were filed against the ex-president; these include using violence against representatives of the authorities, organizing mass unrest, masterminding a murder attempt, hostage taking, and illegal use of firearms.