Security services in Kyrgyzstan have filed criminal charges against a veteran politician known best for his active role in fomenting two successful antigovernment revolts, a feat that has earned him the nickname “revolution bulldozer.”
Azimbek Beknazarov is accused of giving false testimony during the trial of Omurbek Tekebayev, another seasoned and now-jailed opposition rabble-rouser. Tekebayev was last month found guilty of bribery and jailed to serve four years in jail, but investigators claim Beknazarov lied in court to help out his colleague.
During his testimony, on July 19, Beknazarov told the court that Tekebayev was in no way related to the Megacom mobile company at the center of the bribery case.
“And yet, Beknazarov was heard in recorded telephone exchanges stating that Tekebayev and other Ata-Meken party supporters who were part of the interim government of 2010 tried to gain control over Megacom by interfering in the company’s affairs,” the State Committee for National Security said in a statement.
This account of events is based on two recordings, one of which surfaced on YouTube. The other was purportedly provided to the authorities by the editor of the no-profile current affairs website Comment.kg.
In the first recording, Beknazarov is seemingly heard telling former member of parliament Kamchybek Tashiyev that he had indeed given knowingly testimony in court.
“I saw my brother [Tekebayev]. Poor guy, he looks terrible. I just lied my pants off. I lied and asked God for forgiveness,” says the person identified as Beknazarov. The word “brother” here is intended as a term of affection and does not indicate any familial relation.
The sudden appearance of covertly — and almost certainly illegally — recorded telephone conversations between prominent opposition politicians has long been a commonplace in Kyrgyzstan. It is never made clear who produces and releases them. This particular recording was posted on YouTube by a user registered as Samat Medetov, who has no other content to his name. The only obvious possible explanation — one favored by rights activists — is that it is the GKNB itself making and posting the recordings, thereby circumventing the tiresome bother of having to seek proper legal authorization to tap people’s phones.
The most recent victims of these tactics were the members of a self-described People’s Parliament, who were sentenced to lengthy jail terms at the start of August on charges of seeking the violent overthrow of the government. The evidence against the defendants consisted primarily of these mysteriously acquired recordings.
The other recording was provided to the GKNB by Comment.kg chief editor Raushan Aitkulova. In this exchange, Beknazarov appears to be heard admitting to Aitkulova that he lied in court.
Why Beknazarov would have made such an incriminating admission to a reporter with publicly recorded animus for Tekebayev is perplexing.
Beknazarov denies the accusations leveled against him and says the recordings are edited forgeries produced by the GKNB with the aim of discrediting him. He has said that the government is embittered that he stuck to his guns and defended Tekebayev in court.
Beknazarov and Tekebayev were once indubitably formidable political operators, but both are well past their prime and the kind of threat they ever posed to the powers-that-be has faded considerably. Criminal prosecutions against them do not resultantly provoke as many ripples of anxiety as they used to. This raises the question of why it is that the government feels so spooked by them that they see the need to fling them into jail.