BBC man quits after claims he helped to topple president in Kyrgyzstan revolt

BBC man quits after claims he helped to topple president in Kyrgyzstan revolt
# 07 April 2011 15:23 (UTC +04:00)
Arslan Koichiev, 45, who presented and produced a daily show for the country’s six million people, allegedly acted as mentor for a rebel leader. The BBC World Service presenter was even pursued by secret police who tried to kill him with acid, according to the new children’s minister of Kyrgyzstan, Aliasbek Alymkulov.

Mr. Alymkulov claimed that Koichiev arranged secret meetings "through the BBC" and marched on the presidential palace during the April 7 uprising last year. In a further bizarre twist, Koichiev, 45, is accused of appearing on a Kyrgyz radio station under a pseudonym and disguising his voice. He denies the claims.

The revolution toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who had ruled the central Asian country since 2005.

When the extraordinary claims about Koichiev filtered back to London the BBC launched an internal investigation and the presenter resigned. A senior BBC source said: "This has come completely out of the blue. When these guys are out in the field it is difficult for people in London to keep track."

The BBC has strict rules governing the impartiality of its journalists. It is also potentially damaging for the World Service. Koichiev worked as a producer and broadcaster in the BBC’s Central Asia & Caucasus Service and lectured on Kyrgyzstan at British universities. He produced and presented a news and current affairs show from central London but travelled regularly to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. The BBC investigation was launched after bosses at Bush House were made aware of an interview given by Kyrgyzstan minister Alymkulov to a Russian newspaper.

Describing his decision to start the revolution, Mr Alymkulov said: "My anger reached its limit after the trial of Ismail Isakov (former defence minister). I began to discuss this with my mentor Arslan Koichiev from the BBC. We began very cautious preparations, we moved very carefully.

"I could not contact the population directly, I was under SND (secret police) surveillance. But I had my trusted persons working among the people. Ulan Momunaliyev took great risks with me. When Radio Azattyk was closed, and only the BBC survived, he and Arslan Koichiev worked through the BBC and helped us. They were hunted, there were two accidents arranged, an attempt to pour acid over them. They were nearly killed."

In clashes between police and opposition activists, 84 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded. The fighting in Bishkek continued for a week until President Bakiyev fled to neighbouring Kazakhstan.
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