Former president Nambar Enkbayar has waited in a prison facility since April 13 while prosecutors investigate him on corruption charges.
Officials from Mongolia’s Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) attempted to arrest the former president on orders from the Sukhbaatar District Court during late evening on April 12, but failed to take him into custody due to interference from his security. Enkhbayar holed up in his home in the capital while his supporters protested on the city streets. It was not until the next morning that police officials raided his home and took him into custody.
The local television network owned by Enkhbayar was ready to capture the event on camera when police came to arrest him. On the video captured by local news, the former president was seen leaving his home without wearing shoes and his coat over his head while police escorted him away.
Enkhbayar’s family said the case is politically motivated. His chief defense lawyer, Oktober Basandkhuu, said even the district judge who issued his client’s arrest was appointed by rivals in government who would go to any lengths to keep him from running in next June’s election.
“The whole purpose of his detention is not to corroborate the investigation,” said Basankhuu. “It’s clearly to imprison and isolate him.
“They decided the outcome long ago,” he said, speaking of Enkhbayar’s rivals in government.
Enkbayar’s lawyer said that a local association of independent human rights lawyers had already deemed the situation “political imprisonment”. He added that the local branch of Amnesty International had failed to send word to the main office in London.
On the morning of May 4, Enkhbayar announced he would refuse water. Leading up to the dry hunger strike, the 54-year-old former president refused to eat anything but a potato and bowl of rice each day since shortly after his arrest.
His physical condition has worsened since he announced his demonstration, said his lawyer. At the time he interviewed with Reuters, Basankhuu said his client’s heart rate had jumped to 130 beats per minute in addition to signs of fatigue. He also reportedly demonstrated symptoms of liver complications, including yellowing of the eyes and a dark-yellow skin complexion.
Enkhbayar’s family complained that they nor his legal defense had been notified of his decision to go on a dry hunger strike within the three hours mandated by law. They also said authorities denied his family face time to plead with Enkhbayar to give up his hunger strike.
These claims are in addition to the alleged loss of Enkhbayar’s confidential meetings with his lawyers.
“He essentially has no confidentiality. There are four cameras in the observation room and they’ve all been installed since his detention,” said Basankhuu.
When word got out that the former president’s health was deteriorating. Enkhbayar’s wife, Onon Tsolmon, said she rushed to see her husband at the prison facility in Mongolia’s Tuv province, about two hours from the capital, Ulan Bator. Arriving sometime around midnight, she said a crowd of about 10 doctors were present but ignored her inquiries regarding her husband’s health.
She said she later learned from an outside source that they had all signed confidentiality agreements that prohibited them from speaking with the president’s family, his legal defense, or the media.
Neither she nor her son has seen Enkhbayar since the day of his arrest.
The list allegations of abuse include deliberately conducting construction outside his cell throughout the night to prevent him from resting, coercing him to testify against himself, and threatening to hurt or kidnap his daughter. He was also allegedly refused the medical treatment needed before undergoing his dry hunger strike, which could have exacerbated his ailments.
“They’ve been breaking the law every step of the way,” said daughter-in-law Tumur Darima. “They’ve threatened they could do anything to break him down.”
The government is under tremendous pressure to redistribute the wealth raked in by massive mining projects such as the huge Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project and Tavan Tolgoi coal mine. For this aim government has allocated 20 percent of all shares of the state-owned mining firm operating at Tavan Tolgoi to Mongolian citizens.
Political analyst and head of the Sant Maral Foundation polling agency Luvsandendev Sumati said he felt Enkbayar was going to “extreme measures” to rally support from his followers. He said the president may have been disappointed in the lack of demonstrations held in his behalf following his arrest and the little attention in the media brought to his case.
Enkhbayar served as both prime minister and president with what remained of the country’s communist party after democracy was installed in 1991, now called the Mongolian People’s Party. After losing the presidency to Democratic Party candidate Tsakhia Elbegdorj in 2009, he set out to begin his own offshoot party under the remnant communist party’s original title, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party.
“The Democratic Party has usually occupied the niche of serving as the protest vote, but now [Enkhbayar’s opposition coalition] is competing for this,” Sumati said. “Enkhbayar had until now usually belonged to the ruling party. This is a new role for him to play.”
According to local media, since his arrest four seat holders in Parliament have abandoned the Mongolian People’s Party to join up with Enkhbayar.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, News.mn
Find my report from Reuters here.