A district court in the capital of Kyrgyzstan has convicted four opposition politicians on charges of attempting to violently seize power in a case that the defendants’ supporters say was politically motivated.
The longest term handed down on April 17 was reserved for Ernest Karybekov, who has been ordered to serve 20 years in jail.
A former governor of the Jalal-Abad region, Bektur Asanov, and former MP Kubanychbek Kadyrov received 12 years apiece, while Dastan Sarygulov, a former head of the state gold agency, were given a four-year jail term, of which three are conditional.
Zulfiya Marat, a member of the Committee for the Protection of Political Prisoners rights group, complained that rights activists were denied access to the verdict hearing.
“They selectively allowed in only relatives and, after insistent requests, the journalists. The rest it seems were not to their pleasing, and they left them outside under the rain,” she said.
Marat said there were no international observers present at the hearing.
After the verdict was read out, Sarygulov reportedly shouted that he had “no guilt in anything.” Marat told reporters that an appeal is planned.
“We will do everything the law permits. Yes, we do not believe in the justice system, but we will get through this. We will carry our burden,” she said.
Asanov and Kadyrov were detained by the authorities following the appearance online in March 2016 of wiretapped conversations appearing to document plotting by representatives of a cluster of regionally focused opposition groups. The speakers are purportedly heard to discuss ways in which to foment unrest. In one call, the speakers reveal their intent to “bring people onto the streets” and to “seize the White House,” the name of the government building that also houses the parliament.
A few days after that recording was posted online, yet another one surfaced that featured Karybekov and Sarygulov.
Karybekov admitted the conversation in the recording had taken place, but he called what was posted online an “edit and a distortion” and said the case against him had been “fabricated.” He said he had been targeted for his efforts to combat corruption
“For more than 10 years, I have opposed the mafia in the energy industry and the government’s anti-people and criminal activities. Corruption is being protected by the upper echelons of the country’s political establishment. In my most recent statements, I began naming names,” Karybekov said in a letter written in his holding cell.
The trial was held behind closed doors.
Marat said the main purpose of the trial was to make an example of the politicians.
“The authorities are demonstratively settling scores with opposition politicians so as to show their strength. This is a purge of the political field ahead of the presidential elections,” said Marat.
Presidential elections are scheduled for November, but incumbent leader Almazbek Atambayev is poised to step down as required in the constitution. Political observers have speculated that Atambayev is eager to see a pliant successor put in his place so as to avoid any reprisals against him and his entourage. A clear favorite has yet to materialize, however, and Atambayev has to date defied expectations by refraining from naming a preferred candidate.