The vultures in Kyrgyzstan have again begun hovering over what remains of ex-president Almazbek Atambayev.
Reprising an initiative aired earlier this year, a group of more than 40 members of parliament on June 12 supported a motion to consider stripping the former head of state of immunity.
Atambayev has for more than a year now been embroiled in a losing death match against his one-time protégé and successor-turned-foe, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov. He has launched the occasional verbal mortar secure in the knowledge that he is notionally immune from prosecution, but that time looks ever closer to ending.
Kanat Isayev, a deputy with the Kyrgyzstan party who is pushing the proposal, asked the speaker of the house for discussions on the floor of the chamber and at committee level on the immunity-stripping motion.
In Isayev’s case, this is very much the chickens coming home to roost. Isayev is one of many Kyrgyz politicians nursing a grudge. He was sentenced to a long term in prison back when Atambayev was in charge and has since been released.
But the reviving of the immunity-stripping idea has acquired fresh impetus following a low-key rally that Atambayev held on June 8 outside his historic Forum headquarters in Bishkek. Even Atambayev seemed unimpressed by the turnout, which journalists put at around 300 people.
“Most politicians are hiding because they know that Sooronbai Jeenbekov can put anybody he wants in prison. You can understand them, but ordinary people know that there is no need to be afraid,” he told his audience.
Atambayev then proceeded to rehearse some now-familiar recriminations and allegations, including that Jeenbekov is constructing a clan-based regime around himself.
His greatest animus was reserved, however, for parliament, which has turned quite decisively against him.
“[Before], parliament was different, not the chimkyrik (snot) it is today,” he said, slipping from Russian into Kyrgyz for that colorfully offensive word.
The bitterness stems in particular from the fact that Atambayev’s own Social Democratic Party, or SDPK, has split into rival camps. Most of the party’s representatives in parliament have treacherously, as he sees it, not given a second thought to turning against their former political patron.
It is Atambayev’s hardened enemies who are lining up to get the immunity motion through, however.
Kurmankul Zulushev, an MP with the Respublika-Ata Jurt party who was fired as a judge when Atambayev was in power, rattled off a long list of possible criminal offenses for which the ex-president could be brought to justice. Some were decidedly spurious. One charge leveled by Zulushev was that Atambayev contrived to position a crony in the body responsible for doling out professorships to ensure that his wife got the nod. This is meant to have happened, incidentally, in early 2018, a few months after Atambayev left office.
“This person became chairman of the commission and bestowed Raisa Atambayeva with a professorship, even though there is a five-year waiting period. Is this not a crime? Is this not usurpation?” Zulushev said.
At least one person, Bir Bol MP Altynbek Sulaimanov, seemed to support the immunity-lifting idea on the grounds that Atambayev might do something in future.
“Atambayev is provoking the people. He wants to carry out a third revolution,” he warned.
All this scrambling for cause is probably for effect anyhow, since the government seems to have already landed on the new magic bullet case it is using to fell all Atambayev’s remaining cronies-at-large.
Previously, prosecutors have used the murkiness surrounding the contentious and costly refurbishment of a power plant, by a Chinese company, to charge people with corruption. Former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov is currently on trial in connection with that case.
Now, many top-level former officials are getting caught up in the circumstances that led to the release from prison, in 2013, of notorious crime boss Aziz Batukayev. The mobster was released on compassionate grounds following a diagnosis of leukemia that was later discovered to have been forged.
The biggest scalp so far from the Batukayev furor is Aida Salyanova, who served as General Prosecutor from April 2011 to January 2015. She was detained on June 3 and has been denied bail.
Since Atambayev was at the top of the pyramid when Batukayev was allowed to go free, it is likely he that will be used as the weapon with which to silence the grumbling former president once and for all.