In late June, one of Kyrgyzstan’s most dangerous crime bosses was arrested in Grozny, the capital of the unruly Russian federal member state of Chechnya in the northern Caucasus. The reason was a request from Kyrgyzstan for his extradition, more than a year after a Kyrgyz court erroneously ordered his release from a Kyrgyz prison. The culprit has yet another eight years behind bars. It is suspected that a feigned terminal disease, and possibly bribes, could have been behind his mysterious release. Some would wish, though, that the troublemaker would have stayed out of the country for good, since even while jailed he continues to represent a serious danger for society.

 

“Aziz Batukayev is one of several powerful criminal leaders who effectively run the Central Asian country’s jails and prison colonies,” the BBC reported on April 11 last year shortly after the culprit’s release. “Of Chechen origin, he has served many years for serious crimes including murder and drug smuggling. Mr Batukayev has also used his influence to orchestrate mass riots in dozens of jails on several occasions. The Kyrgyz Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s order that Mr Batukayev should be released for medical reasons after several doctors certified his poor state of health. The country’s ombudsman, Tursunbek Akun, said Mr Batukayev was terminally ill with cancer and that his release was in line with Kyrgyz and international laws. The Kyrgyz border service confirmed that he has left the country – giving his destination as Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic.”

 

Batukayev is also suspected of having been among the criminal bosses who triggered social unrest back in 2005, which led eventually to the so-called Tulip Revolution and brought the regime of Kurmanbek Bakiyev to power. In its run-up, people like Batukayev are thought to have mobilised gangs of thousands of paid hooligans in the guise of “protesters”, while after the coup the new regime remained dependent on such gangs, smaller in size but all the more dangerous for it. This system in turn caused an inter-gang war over summer 2005 in which many of Batukayev’s rival kingpins perished. After the change of power in 2010, the remaining chief-mobsters were marginalised and ousted from the political arena.

 

Batukayev remained aloof from the onslaught in 2005 for the simple reason that he had been caught and jailed a year before that. :Batukaev was sentenced to four years of imprisonment in 2004 for purposeful infliction of damage to a person’s health and for illicitly obtaining and possessing weapons,” a newsreel published by the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute [http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/field-reports/item/12710-criminal-boss-released-from-prison-in-kyrgyzstan.htm] reported on April 25, 2009. “In 2006, after the tragic mass disorder at the Moldovanovka prison that led to the deaths of four people including then MP Tynychbek Akmatbaev and the head of the State Penitentiary Service Ikmatullo Polotov, Batukaev was sentenced to additional prison terms for organizing mass disorders and illicit possession of weapons. As a result, Batukaev was to serve a total of 16 years and 8 months in jail.  According to some sources, Batukaev allegedly controlled the illegal drug trafficking transiting Kyrgyzstan on its way from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe between 1993 and 2006. His long-lasting confrontation with rival criminal leader Ryspek Akmatbaev has led to the deaths of dozens of people during different periods of time. Batukaev was accused of murdering Tynychbek Akmatbaev, Ryspek Akmatbaev’s older brother, when the MP was visiting the Moldovanovka prison to get acquainted with the prisoners’ conditions, but was not found guilty.   The discharge of the criminal boss caused resentment among the Kyrgyz public and gave way to various assumptions and speculations. Local media outlets recalled rumors circulating several months ago about influential people in Chechnya offering large amounts of money to Kyrgyz authorities in exchange for Batukaev’s release. The Kyrgyz parliamentarian Ravshan Jeenbekov said that some mass media outlets are talking about US$ 1.5 million that Batukaev allegedly paid to Kyrgyz officials. Meanwhile, former Kyrgyz Prosecutor General Kubatbek Baibolov said that a number of Russian high officials – members of the Russian parliament, mostly from Chechnya – frequently addressed him with requests for assistance in releasing Batukaev from prison.”

BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, WRITER, NEWS ANALYST