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U.S. serviceman accused of killing Kyrgyz sent home

RIA Novosti

03/05/2007 15:21 BISHKEK, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - A U.S. serviceman accused of shooting dead a Kyrgyz national in December has been sent home, the U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan said Thursday.

Alexander Ivanov, 42, a driver at the fuel supply company Aircraft Petroleum Management and a father of two, was shot dead December 6 by U.S. airman, Zachary Hatfield, while undergoing a routine security check at the Manas airbase. Americans said Hatfield reacted to a threat.

Marie Yovanovitch said Kyrgyz investigators had completed the criminal investigation. She said U.S. investigators will continue to investigate the case until it is resolved, after which he could face administrative or disciplinary procedures.

The lawyer of the dead man's family, Galina Skripkina, said the American serviceman left the country in March, but Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies only learned about it in April.

"We found out that the American soldier Hatfield had left Kyrgyzstan March 22. Law enforcers learned about it in April. The relatives of the dead man knew nothing about it," she said.

In March, Kyrgyz prosecutors said Hatfield's guilt had been proven.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev demanded earlier that American servicemen stationed in the country be stripped of diplomatic immunity.

Kyrgyzstan's parliament previously recommended that the government consider closing the U.S. airbase in the Central Asian country's capital, Bishkek.

Manas is the only U.S. base in post-Soviet Central Asia since Uzbekistan evicted American troops from its territory last year. Kyrgyzstan recently raised the leasing fee for the Manas base from the current $2.6 million to $150 million as of 2007.

The airbase command, which the United States has maintained in Kyrgyzstan since its anti-terrorism campaign in neighboring Afghanistan began in 2001, said earlier the U.S. airman who killed the Kyrgyz national acted in self-defense and in accordance with security instructions, a claim disputed by Ivanov's colleagues.

President Bakiyev previously asked the U.S. to ensure that the accused serviceman remain in the country until the end of the investigation being conducted by U.S. officials and Kyrgyz prosecutors.

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