As he prepared to go on trial on corruption charges, the former president of Mongolia lay in a wrinkled hospital bed, where he was recovering from a 10-day hunger strike he waged to protest being held in detention by his successor’s government. Gaunt, barefoot and dressed in hospital-issue white pajamas, the former president, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, bore little resemblance to the populist leader who dominated Mongolian politics until he was defeated in 2009 by Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who now runs the country. But even in his apparently frail state, Mr. Enkhbayar angrily dismissed the charges against him in an interview on Wednesday, and criticized the timing of the trial as a ploy to remove him from the political arena just weeks before parliamentary elections. “If this is a political case, let’s do it now,” he said in fluent English. “But if we live in a real democratic country, and this is not just political theater, let’s take more time.”
On Thursday, a district court postponed the trial, which was to have opened that day, to allow Mr. Enkhbayar to recuperate. The new trial, scheduled for June 4, comes just two days before Mongolia’s date for submitting candidates in the parliamentary elections. The new trial date is also suspicious, his lawyers say, because Mongolian trials often last only one day, giving the government ample time to bar Mr. Enkhbayar’s effort to win a seat in Parliament.
“The coincidence is too great to dismiss the idea that this has been chosen deliberately to allow enough time to convict Mr. Enkhbayar before that date,” said Peter Goldsmith, a former British attorney general and a member of the House of Lords who is representing the former president in the case.