Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government wants to put former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, along with some of his top lieutenants and family members, on trial for various misdeeds, including the misappropriation of state funds. The looting that swept Bishkek on April 7-8 amid the administration’s downfall, however, promises to complicate the task of prosecuting Kyrgyzstan’s past leaders. Key records of the Bakiyev administration appear to have gone up in smoke.
In addition to stores, many government offices were ransacked by marauding bands in Bishkek on April 7-8. The destruction of government property appears to be worse than during the so-called Tulip Revolution of 2005 that brought Bakiyev to power. On April 15, Bakiyev went into exile. [For background see the Eursaia Insight archive].
"It is real tragedy for Kyrgyzstan as a state," a former legal specialist for the disbanded parliament told EurasiaNet.org, speaking on condition of anonymity. "While private shops and offices can be restored later, looted state institutions collected official documentation for many years. Databases will be difficult and almost impossible to restore."
"I think it will take a very long time to restore state offices destroyed by marauders before the interim government can function," he added.
Turat Akimov, head of press center for the provisional government, said that, some of the looting was "organized purposefully to bring disorder by former officials supporting Bakiyev."
More than 30 fires broke out during the upheaval that forced Bakiyev from power, the state news agency, Kabar, reported on April 10. The anarchic conditions in Bishkek that prevailed at the time made fighting the fires difficult, said Hadjimurat Abdrahmanov, head of the fire brigade for Bishkek’s Alamedin District. "Three nights starting on April 7 were very difficult for all of us because the opposition crowd in the streets attacked firemen in attempting to prevent us from extinguishing the fires," he told EurasiaNet.org.
"We received no support from the police or other law enforcement agencies. Several firemen were also beaten by marauders and were hospitalized," he added.
Government buildings damaged by fire include the White House, the parliament building, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Agency for Local Governance, the State Agency on Religious Affairs, the Public Chamber for voicing complaints, the General Prosecutor’s office, the State Committee for National Security (GKNB), and the district branch of the tax service.
Some members of the old order are casting blame for the losses on the provisional government, led by Roza Otunbayeva. Atai Almanbetov, an aide to former vice prime minister Aaly Karashev, told EurasiaNet.org that, "it’s a pity the opposition failed to protect the White House [executive office building]." The presidential offices were looted and partially burned.
While provisional government leaders contend that Bakiyev administration officials wanted to erase any record of their misdeeds, representatives of the old order counter that the new leadership in Bishkek wanted to cover up its own past corrupt practices. Many leading members of the provisional government, at one time or another, held top governmental or parliamentary posts during Bakiyev’s tenure in power.
"At the end of the day, it is public property and common tax payers will pay for the reconstruction. My heart bled to see the invaluable archive of official documents and computer databases burnt and ruined by marauders and vandals," Almanbetov said.
Referring to the destruction following the so-called Tulip Revolution in 2005, prosecutor Nurgul Abylkasymova told EurasiaNet.org that, "Kyrgyzstan is not a rich enough country to afford to begin its statehood from a blank page every five years."
"Crowds led by the opposition looted and burned our newly renovated building," she said. The General Prosecutor’s building was gutted.
Abylkasymova claimed that some of the blazes appeared aimed specifically at destroying paper trails. "It is obvious that rooms with documentation on crimes and databases were burnt before the looting of computers and equipment. This suggests that some people were interested in destruction of criminal evidence rather than looting," she said.
The General Prosecutor’s office fire was indeed arson, acting Mayor Isa Omurkulov told journalists on April 10, without speculating on a suspect. "It seems that some kind of evidence, or some sort of documentation was hidden there," he said in comments carried by AKIpress.
Orozbek Moldaliev, a political analyst at the Bishkek Humanities University, said the damage to government offices was far worse than in 2005. "I have never seen such destruction in the streets of Bishkek in my life. Every day I have less trust in the sustainability of the new government."
Ulan Temirov is the pseudonym for a Kyrgyz journalist.