Kyrgyzstan closes down opposition-linked television station

By bne IntelliNews August 24, 2017

A Bishkek court ordered on August 22 the closure of the Sentyabr television station linked to the recently sentenced opposition leader Omurbek Tekebayev.

The General Prosecutor’s Office accused the broadcaster of disseminating “extremist material”. The station’s representatives in court were given only two hours notice before the beginning of the trial leaving them with insufficient time to study the materials of the court case.  

The station’s management, having no idea about the prosecutor’s office preparing a case against the channel, failed to appoint a lawyer in time for the hearing.

The real reason behind the shutdown of the Sentyabr is likely its ties to Tekebayev, who is the leader of the Ata-Meken party.

Tekebayev and his co-defendant, former Emergency Situations Minister Duishonkul Chotonov, were sentenced to eight years in prison on August 16.

Tekebaev went on trial on June 5 on charges of receiving a $1mn bribe from a Russian businessman in 2010. He was arrested in February on allegations of bribery and fraud - charges he has described as politically motivated. Prior to his arrest, Tekebaev was apparently aiming to announce his candidacy for the presidency.

Tekebaev proved to be the first of several of Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev opponents to be detained this year ahead of the presidential election, which will be held on October 15.

The arrests are under close scrutiny as Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev’s constitutional fiddle has raised suspicions he might be planning to stay in power beyond his six-year term. While he has repeatedly stated his intention to pursue no further political office, his critics suspect he hopes to appoint his own loyal prime minister and possibly manipulate the election in favour of his own chosen presidential candidate.

The two previous Kyrgyz presidential regimes, excluding Roza Otunbayeva’s interim government in 2010, were toppled via violent revolutions. They brought down the administrations of Askar Akayev in 2005 and Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2010.

The arrests raise further concerns that Kyrgyzstan is moving away from the democratic path set out following the revolutions and may face another violent regime change, potentially cementing the country as a failed state, according to some analysts.

The ex-Soviet country has fallen back into the category of consolidated authoritarian regime, according to Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2017 report.

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