British citizen released in Kyrgyzstan: lawyer

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A British citizen held in Kyrgyzstan since April on charges of money laundering has been released after being acquitted, his lawyer said on 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 in April that overthrew former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

"Khalilov is now in hospital to improve his health which has been damaged after the stress and long detention," his lawyer Artyom Ivanov told AFP. The acquittal verdict had been confirmed by two courts, he said.

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

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

His brother Azer Khalilov said Vugar Khalilov now intended to file a complaint over the moral and material damage sustained as a result of his arrest.

"He was subjected to psychological pressure during his arrest," Azer Khalilov said.

Maxim Bakiyev, who occupied top posts under his father and was nicknamed the "Prince" by opposition activists, has been accused by the new authorities of instigating deadly ethnic riots in June and fled to Britain.

The Kyrgyz government has called on Britain to extradite Maxim Bakiyev, who is seeking asylum in the country.

© 2010 AFP

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