A former presidential chief of staff in Kyrgyzstan has said he anticipates being arrested following a report alleging he is being targeted by a set-up orchestrated by the security forces.
Speaking in Bishkek on September 19, Edil Baisalov, who served as chief of staff for interim President Roza Otunbayeva in 2010, claims to have heard from “verified sources” that current President Almazbek Atambayev is seeking “any basis” to imprison him. The president is exploiting inter-ethnic tensions to that end, Baisalov said.
Baisalov’s press conference follows the publication of an article on Moscow-based ferghana.ru claiming knowledge of a plot by Kyrgyz security services to dig up dirt on members of the 2010 post-revolution interim government, of which Atambayev was a leading figure.
The article article alleged, citing a single anonymous source, that employees of the Kyrgyz security services, known as GKNB, were talking to relatives of ethnic Uzbeks that emigrated from Kyrgyzstan following bloody ethnic violence in 2010 and Uzbeks that have taken up residence in Uzbekistan after being convicted of participation in the violence into giving “incriminating testimony against Roza Otunbayeva and some of her colleagues.”
“Disgraced Uzbek community representatives were invited to make an official video message that they ‘organized the inter-ethnic conflict in June 2010 on the say so of Roza Otunbayeva.’” according to the report.
In recent weeks, the president has been engaged in a rapidly escalating conflict with numerous allies-turned-rivals, who have publicly stated their opposition to constitutional changes being pursued by Atmbayev.
The meetings alluded to in the ferghana.ru report reportedly took place in Osh and Tashkent.
Constitutionally, Atambayev should give up the presidency when his single term ends next year, but he has been suspiciously insistent in promoting a referendum to reform the country's foundational legal document and rid it of what he refers to as “mines” before he does so.
Baisalov however, said at his press conference that Atambayev was seeking to remain “for the decades ahead, the main source and arbiter of all state decisions, regardless of whether he holds an official position or not.”
The spokesman for the GKNB responded to Baisalov's allegations with a remarkable statement accusing him of having a "sick mind."
"If he is afraid over some deal he did during his time as head of the presidential adminstration during the interim government, he shouldn't carry out press conferences in fear, but should instead come and repent," GKNB spokesman Rahat Sulaimanov told AKIPress news agency.
If confirmed, ferghana.ru’s report would indicate a sharp escalation in Atambayev’s battle against his opponents.
His forces would effectively be accusing his predecessor — still held in high esteem in many quarters after she ensured Kyrgyzstan's first peaceful transfer of power by handing over the reins following Atambayev’s election in 2011 — of fomenting a conflict that cost over 400 lives.
Officially, Atambayev has only asked the prosecutor’s office to investigate their possible participation in the flight of prominent ethnic Uzbek businessman Kadyrzhan Batyrov, who was accused of inciting inter-communal unrest in 2010 and now lives in Sweden.
While Atambayev was conspicuously absent from public view during the ethnic violence — there were plenty of unprintable rumors as to why — it would seem strange if he, as a leading member of that government, were not at least aware of a decision of such magnitude being taken before now.
Whatever the truth behind any of the allegations being hurled around, it is clear that Atambayev seems intent on pursuing the people that helped him into power by employing all the tools at his disposal.
That is the same strategy Kurmanbek Bakiyev pursued after coming to power by through the 2005 revolution and before former friends, including Otunbayeva, re-emerged to overthrow him in the country’s bloodiest year since independence.