Court in Kyrgyzstan orders ex-president to stay in custody

MOSCOW (AP) — A court in Kyrgyzstan on Friday ordered the nation’s ex-president to remain in custody pending trial on corruption charges as calm returned to the country’s capital following a strong crackdown by police.

The arrest of Almazbek Atambayev sparked two days of riots that left one policeman dead and over 100 people injured, raising fears of instability in the strategically placed Central Asian nation that borders China and hosts a Russian military air base. However, the police action demonstrated that the government appears firmly in charge.

Atambayev, who was in office from 2011 to 2017, has been stripped of the immunity from prosecution he enjoyed as a former president and faces a slew of charges, including corruption and the expropriation of property.

He dismissed the accusations as an “absurd” attempt by his ex-protege, current President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, to silence a critical voice. Shortly before his arrest, Atambayev urged his supporters to push for Jeenbekov’s ouster.

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Atambayev’s supporters foiled the first attempt by police to arrest him Wednesday, but police managed to overcome their resistance the following day with water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas.

Police also dispersed over 1,000 Atambayev supporters who rallied in the capital late Thursday and attempted to break into the parliament building, arresting about 40 people.

Kyrgyzstan’s first two presidents after independence were both driven from office by riots, and two days of violence fueled concerns about another bout of instability. The tough and determined police action Thursday eased those fears, demonstrating the government’s strength.

Shopping malls and other businesses that shut down Thursday, reflecting fears of the widespread looting that accompanied earlier bouts of violence, reopened for business on Friday and the capital was calm.

The two days of tensions preceded Friday’s meeting of prime ministers of the Eurasian Economic Community, a Russia-dominated economic group.

Russia, Kyrgyzstan’s main sponsor and ally, has called for restraint. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met with Jeenbekov Friday, offering more support.

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