On January 5, a famous Kyrgyz politician and businessman, Arstan “Alai” Abdyldaev, was found dead at a penitentiary located in the Moldovanovka village near Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. He was 55. According to the State Penitentiary Service, Abdyldaev committed suicide by hanging himself in the cafeteria of the special medical prison facility. He was transferred there last December 28, from pre-trial detention in Bishkek, where he had been detained since his arrest on December 15, on charges of inciting religious hatred.
The State Committee of National Security explained that the reason for Abdyldaev’s arrest was the need “to take urgent measures to improve the religious situation” in the country, stating that Abdyldaev “considers himself a ‘new God’, ‘savior’, and considers other religions, beliefs and views to be inferior, weak and invalid delusions.”
His death came as a shock to the public and raised suspicions that he was killed. This was because of the murky details provided by the authorities and the questionable circumstances of his detention. Abdyldaev was transferred to the penitentiary facility in Moldovanovka without prior notice to his lawyer Kaisyn Abirov, who blamed “illegal actions of the law enforcement agencies, investigators and the court” for Abdyldaev’s death.
While in pre-trial detention in Bishkek, Abdyldaev was diagnosed with an “unspecified mental personality disorder,” among other things and sent to Moldovanovka for treatment. In a bid to convince the public that it was indeed a suicide, the authorities released footage allegedly of his last moments, where he is seen wrapping a towel around a cable and walking towards the cafeteria, where there were no cameras.
Here is a YouTube video showing what authorities say were Abdyldaev's last moments in detention.
Abdyldaev’s family are adamant that he did not commit suicide. His daughter shared that her father was in good spirits and confident that the investigation would end in his favour. Indeed, he had faced similar charges in 2019, which were dropped after the authorities did not find any calls for religious hatred or extremism in his statements about being a “new God.” His son, speaking at his funeral, said that if he could talk with Abdyldaev again, he would ask: “Father, who strung you up?”
Here is a YouTube video of Abdyldaev's funeral.
Despite never holding any high-level government posts, Abdyldaev was a household name in Kyrgyzstan, having run in the last three presidential elections and given birth to iconic phrases that turned him into a meme legend. His most famous quote came at a press conference in 2011 when he stated, “Zima ne budget” (There will be no winter), predicting major climate changes. In 2012, he followed up with the statement that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin was a “complex biorobot” destined to save humanity. Abdyldaev made headlines again in 2019 by giving a press conference where he declared himself a “new God.”
Here is a YouTube video about Abdyldaev's legacy.
Abdyldaev’s death is another incident of the alarming trend that has been unfolding under the rule of the current president Sadyr Japarov. Since his arrival to power in 2020, three major political and business figures have died in detention under questionable circumstances. No one has been held accountable for their deaths.
The Ministry of Justice reacted to Abdyldaev’s death by creating a special commission to investigate the incident, and the prosecutor general’s office launched a criminal case against the penitentiary staff for negligence. The results of these investigations will help reveal the truth about Abdyldaev’s death.