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British citizen arrested in Kyrgyzstan: officials

A British citizen has been arrested in Kyrgyzstan on charges of laundering money under the rule of ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, prosecutors and his lawyer said Friday.

Vugar Khalilov, a former BBC journalist who was head of a public relations firm in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, was arrested after the uprising earlier this month that overthrew Bakiyev and brought a new interim government to power.

Khalilov was detained nearly two weeks ago but prosecutors loyal to the new interim government only confirmed his arrest on Friday.

“On April 12, the Prosecutor Generals’ Office sanctioned the arrest of Vugar Khalilov on charges of legalizing and laundering funds obtained in a criminal manner,” a spokesman for Kyrgyz prosecutors told AFP.

Khalilov will be held for two months while interim authorities investigate the charges, added the spokesman, Ulan Dykambayev.

Khalilov’s defence lawyer Artyom Ivanov described the charges as politically motivated and part of a campaign by the interim authorities to arrest anyone with links to the ousted president’s inner circle.

The charges pertained to a loan that Khalilov took out to start his PR firm, Flexi Communications, which did marketing and web-design for companies linked to the ousted president’s son, Maxim Bakiyev, the lawyer said.

Khalilov is being held in an isolation cell by the GSNB, the Kyrgyz successor to the Soviet-era KGB secret police, and has been denied access to a doctor despite chronic health problems, Ivanov said.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in London said British authorities were aware of the case and consular officials had visited Khalilov, whom she confirmed was a British national.

“We will continue to monitor the case closely,” the spokeswoman told AFP under customary condition of anonymity.

Khalilov, who is of Azerbaijani origin, had also worked previously for US-funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe.