Lawyers, relatives protest after Kyrgyz opposition figures sentenced

Lawyers, relatives protest after Kyrgyz opposition figures sentenced
By bne IntelliNews April 19, 2017

Lawyers and relatives of three Kyrgyz opposition politicians arrested in 2016 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government held protests against the convictions on April 18. 

The politicians were arrested and charged in March 2016 following the circulation online of an audio recording supposedly revealing their plans to topple the government, but there are defence claims that the tape was faked for blackmail purposes.

Ernest Karybekov, Kubanychbek Kadyrov and Bektur Asanov will be appealing their verdicts and the lengthy prison sentences handed down to them a day earlier, according to friends and relatives, RFE/RL reported on April 18. A Bishkek court found the three politicians guilty of planning to seize power by force. Karybekov received a prison sentence of 20 years, and Kadyrov and Asanov sentences of 12 years. Dastan Sarygulov, a fourth politician, was sentenced to four years in prison with three years suspended.

The developments in the case have taken place amid Kyrgyzstan’s continued descent into authoritarianism. Once hailed as an "island of democracy" among Central Asia's autocratic and dictator-ruled nations, Kyrgyzstan has fallen back into the consolidated authoritarian regime category, according to Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2017 report. At least six high-profile figures have been presented with allegations of corruption in the country over a span of a little over two months - including leader of the Ata-Meken opposition party Omurbek Tekebayev and his ally Almambet Shykmamatov.

Over just one month, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev managed to backtrack from promising to leave politics for good at the end of his term, to vowing to not only continue working with his Social Democratic Party (SDPK), but to also dismiss the parliament before his departure from office.

The country appears to some observers to be slowing moving towards a third revolution. Protests toppled Askar Akayev’s regime in 2005 and Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s regime in 2010. Analysts have noted similarities in the events currently taking place in comparison to those that led up to the two revolutions.

A third revolution risks cementing the country as a failed state as there are no guarantees that Atambayev will not be forced out of office as the November presidential elections approach. The constitution does not allow Atambayev to run for office for a second term.

Protests have been taking place in Kyrgyzstan almost weekly within the past two and a half months.

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