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Kyrgyz Opposition Leader Madumarov Again Under Pressure

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Kyrgyz Opposition Leader Madumarov Again Under Pressure

For the second time in just over a year, Kyrgyzstan’s prosecutor general has sought to strip opposition politician Adakhan Madumarov’s immunity so he can be prosecuted. 

Kyrgyz Opposition Leader Madumarov Again Under Pressure
Credit: Depositphotos

Kyrgyzstan’s Prosecutor General Kurmankul Zulushev on May 31 asked the Jogorku Kenesh, Kyrgyzstan’s unicameral parliament, to waive Adakhan Madumarov’s parliamentary immunity and allow him to be prosecuted. The possible charges include abuse of power, preparing mass riots, and attempting to seize power by force, likely in connection to the Kempir-Abad case given Madumarov’s vocal opposition to the agreement signed between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek governments. 

Parliament has formed a commission to consider the request. 

Madumarov said in a press conference: “I asked what are the complaints against me? Do I breathe a lot of air, drink a lot of water, or do I walk a lot around Bishkek? They talk about the violent seizure of power… You tell me what power I have, I will use it.” He called the apparent case against him “politicized.”

“My personal position does not align with that of the authorities, and they hate that. Every day we talk about their shortcomings and violations of the constitution. We are like a thorn in their eye.”

Madumarov also noted that a few days earlier the Kyrgyz Constitutional Court had ruled that the norm under which the prosecutor general seeks the consent of parliament to pursue a criminal case against a deputy in the body is unconstitutional. He claimed the decision was made with him specifically in mind.

And he may not be wrong. Madumarov is head of the Butun Kyrgyzstan party and this is not the first time he’s been under fire. Last year in early February, the Kyrgyz parliament received a petition from the prosecutor general requesting permission to bring treason charges against Madumarov in relation to a 2009 protocol he signed as part of a Kyrgyz government delegation (he was secretary of the security council at the time) with their Tajik counterparts. The agreement included a 49-year lease of a patch of land along the countries’ disputed border to Kyrgyzstan to build a road and a bridge. The prosecutor general revised the desired charge to “abuse of power” but parliament ultimately denied the request.

The latest charges are likely in relation to the Kempir-Abad case; Madumarov certainly thinks so. Prosecutor General Zulushev in April asked deputies to stop referring to the cases related to a group of 26 politicians and activists detained in October 2022 as the “Kempir-Abad” case. As I wrote at the time:

Adakhan Madumarov, the head of the Butun Kyrgyzstan party, pushed back, noting that investigators referred to those arrested as “members of the committee for the protection of Kempir-Abad.”

Madumarov accused the government of arresting vocal opponents to the border agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan regarding the Kempir-Abad reservoir ahead of a planned (and several times delayed) visit by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Kyrgyzstan to seal the agreement.

And thus, it remains the “Kemir-Abad case” in the press and in parliamentary discussions, in part because the term is accurate and also for want of a better term to refer to the wide array of individuals swept up.

RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service noted in its report on the Madumarov affair that when the nearly 30 activists were detained in October 2022, Madumarov’s name — and that of another deputy, Ishaq Masaliev — were also listed in the investigation documents. Neither was detained, and Madumarov has continued to be vocal in criticizing the Sadyr Japarov government.

Masaliev, commenting on the repeat request to prosecute Madumarov, said, “The authorities are trying to silence not only Madumarov, but the entire parliament. Because Madumarov has been openly stating his shortcomings and expressing his positions… The main goal is to eliminate those who criticize and increase those who praise.”

Madumarov is a political survivor in Kyrgyzstan. He was first elected to parliament in 1995 and has ridden the various waves and tigers of Kyrgyzstan’s tumultuous political arena ever since. As head of Butun Kyrgyzstan, which he founded in 2010, he stands as one of the loudest voices in opposition to the government of President Japarov and his tandem partner, Chairman of the State Committee for National Security Kamchybek Tashiev. Most recently Madumarov joined six other deputies in seeking to amend the country’s “fake news” law to grant media organizations three days — rather than 24 hours — to consider take-down requests issued by the Ministry of Culture. (The “fake news” law has been used to block RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service and serves as the basis of its looming ejection from the country).

Madumarov ran against Japarov in the January 2021 snap presidential election and came in second, with just under 7 percent of the vote (Japarov won with 79 percent). In various polls over the years, and likely a product of his long political career, Madumarov appears among the lists of politicians people trust. For example, in a September 2020 poll conducted before Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary election that year, which triggered the third revolution and Japarov’s rise to power, the International Republican Institute (IRI) asked: “Which politicians or public persons do you trust the most?” Survey respondents were allowed to give three spontaneous responses. The top answers were Omurbek Babanov (16 percent), Kamchybek Tashiev (12 percent), and Adakhan Madumarov (11 percent). “Zhaparov S” — an alternative spelling for Japarov — received 7 percent.

In subsequent polls, Madumarov remains in the running. The September 2022 version, for example, saw him come in with 10 percent, following Japarov (38 percent), Tashiev (18 percent), and the leader of the Yiman Nuru party, Nurzhigit Kadyrbekov (11 percent) — whom Eurasianet once characterized as “Instagram-savvy.”

Last summer, during an appearance in parliament, Tashiev ended up in an argument with Madumarov, threatening to break the deputy’s arm and throw him in jail — alluding to the earlier attempt to charge him that failed and warning that it wasn’t too late. (Kloop put together a transcript of the the verbal bout that’s worth reviewing.)