Fugitive Kyrgyz ex-leader gets long jail term in absentia

BISHKEK Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:51am EST

Ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev gestures during a news conference in Minsk June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Vladimir Nikolsky

Ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev gestures during a news conference in Minsk June 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Vladimir Nikolsky

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BISHKEK (Reuters) - A court in Kyrgyzstan has sentenced fugitive former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to 24 years in prison for abuse of office, and handed a life term to his brother for murder and other crimes.

The verdicts announced on Tuesday give the authorities legal grounds to resume demanding the ex-president's extradition from Belarus.

Bakiyev was granted political asylum by Minsk after crowds seized his government headquarters in an April 2010 revolt in which about 90 people were killed when security forces opened fire on opposition protesters.

Belarus, run by the authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, has repeatedly rejected Kyrgyzstan's demands to extradite the former president.

The garrison military court of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, which tried Bakiyev in absentia, said in a statement that he had been found guilty of abuse of office and inflicting grave damage to the state as a member of a criminal group. It gave no further details.

Bakiyev's brother Zhanysh, who headed his security service and has also been reported to be hiding in Belarus, was sentenced by the same court in absentia to life imprisonment for kidnapping, premeditated murder and other grave crimes.

Prosecutors had accused Zhanysh Bakiyev of ordering the killing of Medet Sadyrkulov, a former head of presidential staff who resigned after falling out with Bakiyev and later announced plans to join the opposition.

The burnt bodies of Sadyrkulov and two other people were found in a car in March 2009. Investigators said later the three had been killed before the car was set on fire.

"Kyrgyzstan has not given up its demands to extradite the Bakiyevs. This ruling by the court exposed their criminal activities," said presidential spokesman Kadyr Toktogulov.

Bakiyev's son Maksim, who also fled the country after the revolution, was arrested in London in October last year following a U.S. request to extradite him on fraud charges. He has since been released on bail and proceedings have been adjourned until May 13.

Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim nation of 7.5 million people which hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases, remains politically wobbly as it struggles to build the first parliamentary democracy in authoritarian Central Asia.

Violent revolts have deposed two Kyrgyz presidents since 2005. About 500 people were killed in ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Additional reporting by Maria Golovnina in London; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Stephen Nisbet)

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