Seven government officials in Kyrgyzstan are facing charges of allowing radioactive coal to be brought into the country and distributed to schools, an orphanage and a home for the elderly, prosecutors said Wednesday.
It was not immediately known how the coal, which was purchased from a company in neighboring Kazakhstan, became radioactive. Kyrgyz government scientists have said the radiation emitted by the coal is not at a lethal level, and there have been no reports of illnesses connected with the coal.
Nonetheless, the case has caused a furor in the country, with rival politicians accusing each other of responsibility.
The coal was bought by a state energy company.
Energy minister Askarbek Shadiyev said former parliament speaker Akhmad Keldibekov lobbied to have an initial contract annulled and the contract was then given to another Kazakh company. It was unclear whether Shadiyev was suggesting that Keldibekov had earned money from the transaction.
Keldibekov's Ata-Zhurt party in turn has accused Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov of being behind the purchase of the coal.
Kazakhstan has agreed to take back the coal after negotiations between energy suppliers in the two countries.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects that prosecutors spoke Wednesday, not Tuesday. Adds details.)