By Leila Saralayeva (AP)
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Prosecutors said Friday they have asked Belarus to extradite deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to Kyrgyzstan to face charges of complicity in murder and abuse of office.
The request for Bakiyev's return came as Kyrgyzstan's interim government stepped up efforts to arrest of several of his relatives and former high-ranking officials.
Belarus has signed an international extradition accord, so it is obliged to hand over Bakiyev, Kyrgyz General Prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov said. But extradition appeared unlikely since Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has personally guaranteed Bakiyev refuge.
Bakiyev fled Kyrgyzstan last month, more than a week after he was toppled from power amid violent clashes between government forces and demonstrators in which at least 85 people died.
On Thursday, the international police agency Interpol placed one of Bakiyev's sons, Maksim, on its wanted list at the request of a Kyrgyz court. He is currently believed to be in the Baltic state of Latvia.
Kyrgyz prosecutors said that companies owned by Maksim Bakiyev avoided almost $80 million in taxes on aviation fuel sold to suppliers to a U.S. air base in the country, a key refueling point for warplanes flying over Afghanistan and a major hub for combat troop movement.
The alleged tax evasion dates back to 2005, the year Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power, prosecutors said.
U.S. presidential adviser Michael McFaul visited Kyrgyzstan this week and proposed supplying fuel to the Manas base through Kyrgyz state companies to avoid accusations of financial impropriety.
Other senior figures sought by the Kyrgyz authorities include Bakiyev's brother, Zhanybek, who is accused of issuing the order to fire at protesters in the capital, Bishkek, during street clashes April 7.
The interim government is offering cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of several of Bakiyev's fugitive colleagues, including former Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov. The rewards of $20,000 to $100,000 are colossal in a country where the average monthly salary is $130.
Bakiyev swept to power in 2005 on a wave of street protests, but his public standing collapsed amid corruption allegations, worsening living conditions and repression.
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