Jailed Mongolian Ex-Leader Hospitalized on Hunger Strike

Former Mongolia President Nambaryn Enkhbayar
A file photo showing Nambaryn Enkhbayar, former Mongolian president, from 2008. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Jailed former Mongolian President Nambar Enkhbayar, who plans to run in parliamentary elections in June, is refusing treatment and his organs are failing six days after he began a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

Enkhbayar, who previously served as prime minister and then president of one of the world’s fastest growing economies, was taken to a hospital in the capital Ulan Bator yesterday, according to his son Batshugar. He said he saw his father yesterday, that he was “very weak” and had vowed to continue his hunger strike. A spokeswoman for President Tsakhia Elbegdorj declined to comment.

The former leader’s treatment may further unsettle foreign investors who helped fuel 17.3 percent economic growth last year, said Oliver Belfitt-Nash, head of research at Ulan Bator-based brokerage Monet Capital LLC. Political infighting in recent months has hindered efforts by the government to sell off state-run coal mining companies so it can raise cash for infrastructure projects in the country of 2.8 million people.

“This arrest is just highlighting political risk here,” Belfitt-Nash said in a phone interview. “It’s adding a premium to Mongolia’s risk and all the stocks are going down because of it.”

The Mongolian Stock Exchange Top 20 Index has fallen 6.3 percent so far this year after gaining 47 percent in 2011 and 139 percent in 2010.

United Nations Appeal

Enkhbayar isn’t taking food or water, said his attorney Peter Goldsmith, a partner at New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton LLP who is a former British attorney general and a member of the House of Lords. Batshugar Enkhbayar, 24, said the family was appealing to the United Nations and Amnesty International to get emergency care abroad for his father because they fear doctors within the country may be compromised.

Prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and president from 2005 to 2009, Enkhbayar, 53, was named head of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party after it split from the ruling party last year. He was arrested April 13.

“He still commands strong support in the countryside and with his breakaway party he might have been able to get enough votes to act as a kingmaker,” siding with one of the two main parties to form a coalition government, said Belfitt-Nash.

Politically Motivated

Enkhbayar’s son says the arrest was politically motivated and that the court decreed his father could be held in detention until June 27, a day before the elections take place. His father claimed in April that 2008 and 2009 elections were beset by fraud.

“They arrested him because they see him as an opponent in the elections,” Batshugar said in a phone interview. “I’m concerned because the rule of law is not working in Mongolia.”

Sed-Ayushjav Batzaya, a spokeswoman for the president, said in a phone interview that “these questions are not really for us, as it’s not the president who decides who goes to jail or not.”

Od Och, the foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, and Hantulga Galaazagraa, the prime minister’s assistant, didn’t reply to e-mails seeking comment. A person who answered the phone at the State Prosecutor General’s office hung up before answering any questions.

Goldsmith said the charges against Enkhbayar include stealing a donation of television equipment valued at $113,000 that was meant to go to a Buddhist monastery and not paying duties to ship eight volumes of a book he authored from South Korea to Mongolia.

Enkhbayar’s son said his father, whose party is planning to contest every seat in Mongolia’s parliament in the June elections, denies all the charges against him.

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