Asia

Row as Kyrgyz crime boss Aziz Batukayev is released from jail

Aziz Batukayev
Image caption Mr Batukayev is reported to be in poor health

A row has broken out in Kyrgyzstan over the release from jail of the country's most notorious crime boss.

Aziz Batukayev is one of several powerful criminal leaders who effectively run the Central Asian country's jails and prison colonies.

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.

Terminally ill

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.

Image caption Kyrgyzstan's arcane prison system is a leftover from Soviet days

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.

But the crime leader's release has caused anger.

The Kyrgyz parliament called a special debate with some MPs demanding the resignation of officials responsible.

One prominent MP, Ismail Isakov, called the decision "criminal" and demanded that prison officials explain themselves to the house.

Some have argued that the release is in breach of a new law adopted in February which bans any amnesty for criminal bosses.

Mr Batukayev was convicted while already in jail in 2006 for orchestrating large scale unrest which spread through the Kyrgyz penitentiary system.

An attempt by a government delegation to negotiate an end to months of chaos during his incarceration resulted in four members being killed when they entered the prison colony where he was being held.

Mr Batukayev's quarters were subsequently stormed, with officials releasing video footage showing the criminal leader's extraordinary lifestyle which included TV sets, computers, an array of weapons as well as horses and dogs which he had apparently been allowed to breed.

Kyrgyzstan's arcane prison system is a legacy of the Soviet Union where the day-to-day running of large jails and prison colonies was often left to inmates led by powerful individuals, who in return were supposed to co-operate with the prison administration.

Observers say that mafia bosses in Kyrgyzstan wield significant power and influence because they have long cultivated connections with those in authority.

The government has promised to eradicate criminality and corruption. Late last year it celebrated a major success with the arrest of another powerful crime boss, Kamchi Kolbaev.

He is currently in pre-trial detention.