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Otunbayeva pardons Bakiev-era economic criminals, wants money back

© RIA Novosti . Sergei Guneev  / Go to the photo bankKyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva
Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva - Sputnik International
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Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva on Monday signed a decree pardoning people who have committed economic crimes over the last five years.

Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva on Monday signed a decree pardoning people who have committed economic crimes over the last five years.

"The decree applies to persons subject to criminal prosecution in the event that they confirm their willingness to repay the damage caused," the document said. A special commission will define the sum of the financial losses to the state caused by each person pardoned.

The decree, which comes into effect today and will be valid until the end of the month, covers the period from March 24, 2005 to April 7, 2010. Those pardoned will also have to sign an agreement pledging not to bid for political or administrative posts during the next five years.

The period covered by the decree is the term of office of ousted Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who fled the country follwing violent street protests in April, and his predecessor Askar Akayev.

The new Kyrgyz authorities have accused Bakiyev and his administration of abuse of office and corruption during his presidency.

"The announced amnesty is a necessary move by the new Kyrgyz government - the country's coffers are empty. The Kyrgyz authorities believe that Bakiev-era officials who have been of embezzlement and corruption will return the stolen money," a leading Central Asia expert, Arkady Dubnov, told RIA Novosti.

The amnesty campaign is also linked to the inability of the legal system to deal with the vast majority of cases against those accused of economic crimes, Dubnov said.

"The Kyrgyz authorities hope that the Bakiev-era officials who have been charged with economic crimes will prefer to return the stolen money on a voluntary basis in order to remove stains on their reputations," Dubnov said.

However, if the officials drag their feet on returning the stolen money willingly, the authorities could get tougher, the expert added.

"The Kyrgyz authorities may try to compel the Bakiev-era officials to give the money back," Dubnov added.

Bakiyev is currently in Belarus under the "personal" protection of President Alexander Lukashenko.

In May, the Kyrgyz interim government first requested the former president's extradition, accusing him of ordering the shooting of civilians during the conflict, as well as abuse of power and corruption during his leadership. Bakiyev has denied the claims.

Belarus rejected the extradition request, saying the interim Kyrgyz government was not legitimate.

In late June, a referendum on a new constitution was held in the republic as part of the interim authorities' efforts to return the country to democratic rule. Otunbayeva was approved in the referendum as the country's president for a provisional period until 2012.

Bakiyev and his relatives have also been accused of instigating clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbeks in the south of Kyrgyzstan, Bakiyev's former stronghold. The riots claimed the lives of some 300 people, according to official figures. Kyrgyz officials say the real death toll may exceed 2,000.

BISHKEK, September 6 (RIA Novosti)

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