Justice in the New Kyrgyzstan: Rulers Maintain Impunity
Justice works differently for Kyrgyzstan’s elite. The Tokmok City court has dropped a criminal case against the son of Bishkek Mayor Isa Omurkulov for his role in a fatal August car accident. Omurkulov is a close ally of outgoing President Roza Otunbayeva and her successor, President-Elect Almazbek Atambayev.Azamat Omurkulov was on trial for killing three young people in a late night head-on collision while speeding back from a resort at Kyrgyzstan’s Lake Issyk-Kul. The mayor’s son was reportedly driving in the wrong lane in excess of 200km (125 miles) per hour when he struck the oncoming car with his Toyota Land Cruiser. The case, which has appeared vulnerable to political pressures from the start, was halted November 24 when the last of the victims’ families declined to press charges.First, local media reported suspicious inconsistencies in the accident report, in particular with the younger Omurkulov’s license-plate number. Originally listed as having a number associated with the mayor’s office, the car’s plates somehow changed to a private number in the course of the investigation. Then the trial was moved from Bishkek to Tokmok, 90 minutes from the capital, diminishing access for observers and the media. In early November the trial was delayed for two weeks when Omurkulov was hospitalized for undisclosed reasons. When proceedings resumed, they were closed to journalists at the request of Omurkulov’s lawyer over concerns that their presence put “psychological pressure” on the accused.Now the last of the victims’ families has refused to press charges, and it appears that law enforcement authorities will not exercise their right to pursue a case. Speculation online has immediately turned to the amount of money Omurkulov paid to the victims’ families.Driving in Kyrgyzstan -- or walking in the vicinity of cars, for that matter -- is a dangerous activity. Yet for all the outrage about high-end cars driving recklessly -- running red lights and forcing others off the road while the police salute, for example -- the elite retain their impunity.