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Kyrgyzstan sentences US citizen at Manas airbase to 4 years in prison

June 02, 2014, 16:51 UTC+3 BISHKEK

Branden Cornelius was detained in March for drunkenly resisting police officers, who apprehended him over his alleged attempt to rape a local woman

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Manas airbase (archive)

Manas airbase (archive)

©  AP Photo/Vladimir Voronin

BISHKEK, June 02. /ITAR-TASS/. A US citizen, who worked as a contractor at the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan, has been found guilty on charges of hooliganism and sentenced to four years in a Kyrgyz prison, a press service of the country’s Supreme Court said on Monday.

Branden Cornelius, born in 1985 in Monterrey, California, was an employee at the US military air transit center in Kyrgyzstan since 2012, and his contract was due to expire this month. Cornelius was detained in March for drunkenly resisting police officers, who apprehended him over his alleged attempt to rape a local woman.

“US citizen Cornelius has been found guilty and sentenced to four years in a high security prison,” the press service said, adding that the verdict was handed down by the Sverdlov Court of the city of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

According to investigators, police received a complaint from a local 22-year-old woman on March 9 that a foreign national, later identified as Cornelius, was trying to force her into a sexual intercourse. When policemen attempted to apprehend him, Cornelius resisted arrest, verbally insulted them, tore off epaulettes of a police captain’s uniform and later smashed an office table at a police station.

There was no immediate information whether the defense of the US citizen would appeal the court’s ruling.

US military air transit center in Manas, located on the territory of Bishkek’s commercial airport, was opened in December of 2001 to provide assistance to the US-led anti-terrorism operation in Afghanistan, launched after the 9/11 tragic events. The airbase was due to close this July following the US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The incident with Cornelius was not the first case involving US personnel from the Manas airfield and provoking a public outcry in Kyrgyzstan. In 2006, a US Air Force serviceman, Zachary Hatfield, fatally shot a Kyrgyz citizen at one of the airport’s checkpoints. Hatfield claimed that the man, who was driving a truck, threatened him with a knife during the vehicle’s inspection at the checkpoint.

The Manas Air Base later said in its official statement that the US soldier acted as his training required. Hatfield went back to the United States, when then-President of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiyev called for stripping of immunity all US soldiers deployed in Kyrgyzstan.

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