The last few days hunderds of Kyrgyz protested against the arrest of opposition leader Omurbek Tekebayev. Tekebayev is a parliamentary deputy who leads the Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party and its parliamentary faction. He was detained on corruption charges after arriving at the airport of Kyrgyzstan’s capital city Bishkek on the 26th of February. The State Committee for National Security (GKNB) claims that Tekebayev received a $1 million bribe from a Russian businessman during his time as deputy prime minister in 2010.
It isn’t the first time that the Kyrgyz authorities have accused Tekebayev of wrongdoing; past November he and his fellow party members Almambet Shykmamatov and Aida Salyanova were accused of having made erroneous business deals through an offshore company in Belize.
Alleged motivations and constitutional changes
The protesters, among them former interim-President Roza Otunbayeva (Social Democratic Party), say that the charges are politically motivated and that Tekebayev’s arrest is illegal because procedural violations were made. His supporters furthermore believe the state is trying to discredit him ahead of the presidential elections, due to take place in November 2017.
Tekebayev and current President Atambayev used to be allies but had a falling out when the president initiated a series of constitutional changes in 2016. The changes give the prime minister a significant amount more power; being allowed to appoint and dismiss ministers, and having a big say in the government’s budget. Tekebayev and his party opposed the amendments, but they were approved a few months later in December 2016 nonetheless. It is believed by some that Atambayev initiated the constitutional changes in order to become prime-minister after his presidency ends, as he can’t’ be re-elected as president, or to ensure that his allies maintain power after his term ends.
New controversial allegations
Two days ago on the 28th of February a court ordered to extend Tekebaev’s arrest for two more months, ignoring his parliamentary immunity. Yesterday in a suprising twist, Tekebayev’s party Ata-Meken claimed that he was arrested to prevent him from publishing certain documents. A lawyer for the Ata-Mekenparty stated that Tekebaev has documents showing that there were goods belonging to the Kyrgyz president aboard a cargo plane that crashed past January. There have been suspicions that systematic smuggling is going on and that the plane contained tons of undeclared imports destined for the gray markt, or officials’s pockets. All these allegations have been staunchly denied by Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry and staff of the president’s office.