THE PRESIDENCY of Kyrgyzstan is not a job for the fainthearted. In the past 15 years two incumbents have been toppled by mass protests. Last year an
THE PRESIDENCY of Kyrgyzstan is not a job for the fainthearted. In the past 15 years two incumbents have been toppled by mass protests. Last year an ex-president, Almazbek Atambayev, was arrested amid a deadly clash between supporters and police. This week a court handed him an 11-year prison sentence on corruption charges that he says are politically driven.
The court ruled that Mr Atambayev had helped wangle the early release from prison of a mafia don, Aziz Batukayev, supposedly on compassionate grounds, using a fake diagnosis of leukaemia. Mr Batukayev walked free and flew to Russia in 2013, but prosecutors started probing Mr Atambayev’s role only after he began feuding with Sooronbay Jeyenbekov, a former protégé who had succeeded him as president in 2017.
Mr Jeyenbekov may have learnt a thing or two from his ex-mentor on neutralising rivals. When Mr Atambayev was president, his opponents had a habit of landing behind bars on corruption charges—a fate that has now befallen not only him, but also several allies. Sapar Isakov, an Atambayev-era prime minister, is serving 18 years in jail on graft charges.
Investigators have vigorously pursued the corruption charges against Mr Atambayev, but an equally momentous case, which brought protesters onto the streets when it hit the headlines last year, is moving glacially. It concerns a smuggling racket which allegedly enjoyed official…