A court in Kyrgyzstan has ordered the early release of a notorious underworld figure only 12 months after he was sentenced to 18 years in jail for a range of offenses, including attempted murder.
The news has provoked a wave of indignation as concern reawakens over the activities of organized crime organizations in the country. Members of parliament have given additional impetus to the issue with public discussions about an arson attack on a cafe on January 7 in the tourism-reliant Issyk-Kul region that appears to have come in retaliation for the owner’s refusal to pay tributes to racketeers.
Lenin district court in Bishkek ruled on January 18 that Chingiz Jumagulov — better known by his underworld nickname Doo (Giant) — could go free in view of his successful legal appeals since he was sentenced in early 2017.
His original sentence was for ordering an attempted murder, using violence against a public officials and hooliganism. Investigators argued at the time of the trial that Jumagulov’s associates had shot up a car in the center of Bishkek on his orders. The victim of the attack survived and had to be hospitalized.
Following appeals, Jumagulov’s original sentence was commuted to 13 years, and than again to seven years. The petition to order Jumagulov’s release was supported by the director of the jail in which he was being held.
Far more authoritative crime figures have managed to get away with arguably more serious crimes in Kyrgyzstan in the past.
One of those is Kamchy Kolbayev, of whose network Jumagulov is said to be a member (Jumagulov denies links to Kolbayev).
Kolbayev is an underworld figure so prominent that even the US State Department was prompted in 2007 to describe him as “the leader of the most influential criminal group in the country.”
In December, the US Treasury moved to recognize “Thieves-in-Law,” a broad catchall name for organized crime networks operating across the former Soviet Union, as a Transnational Criminal Organization. It included Kolbayev among this organization’s leading members.
For all that, Kolbayev has routinely managed to elude capture. Following a brief period of detention in the wake of the 2010 revolution, he slipped out of the country. He was detained by authorities in the United Arab Emirates in 2011, but an extradition effort by Kyrgyzstan proved unsuccessful. It is never entirely clear how aggressively such extradition requests are pursued, however.
The was another wave of public outcry last July, when authorities agreed to release yet another person with suspected ties to the underworld — Kadyrbek Dosonov, AKA Jengo.
Dosonov had been suspected of murdering a policeman deeply involved in the investigation of organized crime, but he was found innocent of the charge and allowed to go free following two years of court hearings.
Maybe the most egregious case was that of crime boss Aziz Batukayev, who was released from prison on health grounds in 2013. That development sparked howls of indignation from members of parliament, although those complaints did nothing to halt the process. Batukayev quickly left the country in a private jet, only for it to be discovered some days after his departure that the medical analyses used as justification for his release had been forged.
Batukayev was later arrested by Russian authorities in the Republic of Chechnya. Despite Russian pledges in September to hand Batukayev back to Kyrgyzstan, this has not yet happened.
Nurjamal Djanibekova is a journalist based in Bishkek.