Kazakh Opposition Activist Sentenced To Four Years In Prison

ALMATY -- A Kazakh opposition activist has been sentenced to four years in prison on charges of supporting activities of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement.

The Almaly district court on November 30 sentenced Aset Abishev after finding him guilty of participating in activities of a banned organization and financially supporting a criminal group.

Abishev rejected the verdict, calling the trial politically motivated. He said he would appeal.

During the trial that started on October 2, Abishev denied the DVK movement or its founder -- fugitive former banker and a vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Mukhtar Ablyazov -- were extremist.

Kazakhstan banned the DVK in March after deeming it an extremist organization.

Ablyazov has been living in self-imposed exile since 2009, residing in several EU countries, including France and Britain. He is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion.

On November 27, a Kazakh court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison for murder, a charge he denied and labeled politically motivated.

Another Kazakh court earlier sentenced Ablyazov to 20 years in prison in absentia after convicting him of organizing and leading a criminal group, as well as abuse of office, embezzlement, and financial mismanagement.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.