Tuesday, February 28 2017 18:58 EET
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Omurbek Tekebaev, Political Pugilist At Center Of Kyrgyzstan's Storm
Omurbek, Tekebaev, Political, Pugilist,  Center, Kyrgyzstan's, Storm

The detention on arrival in Bishkek of Omurbek Tekebaev, a veteran politician and leader of the Ata-Meken party, immediately set off political friction in Kyrgyzstan.

Modest protests started the same day and continued on February 27, when a court ordered Tekebaev held for two months while he is investigated on charges of fraud and corruption. The demonstrations continue.

There's been bad blood between Tekebaev and his former political ally, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev, for months now, and something like this was almost bound to happen.

Tekebaev, who was in politics before Kyrgyzstan declared independence from the Soviet Union, is no stranger to controversy. His Ata-Meken party was the second political party to be registered in the newly sovereign republic in late 1991. (Erkin Kyrgyzstan was the first.) Over the past 25 years, Tekebaev has variously been an ally or an opponent of many of Kyrgyzstan's most senior political figures.

He has been a speaker of parliament, a presidential candidate, and an outspoken critic of Kyrgyz presidents. (Once, as speaker of parliament, he called then-President Kurmanbek Bakiev a "disgrace" and invited him to take advantage of the first available tree to hang himself.)

Tekebaev is from the Akmak Bazar-Korgon district in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Jalal-Abat Province, where some of his supporters attempted to block the main highway between Osh and Bishkek on February 27, to protest Tekebaev’s detention.

Tekebaev was a high-school teacher in the village of Akman in the 1980s when he launched his political career by becoming a local activist. In 1990, he became a people’s deputy in the Supreme Soviet of the Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic, and in 1991 he became a member of the Supreme Soviet Council and sat on the Committee for Judicial Affairs.

Tekebaev was elected to parliament in 1995 and later that year attempted to run for president, only to have his registration rejected.

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