Kazakh Court Upholds Denial Of Early Release To Jailed Former Uranium Tycoon

SEMEI, Kazakhstan – A regional court in Kazakhstan has upheld a lower court’s decision to deny bail to the former boss of the country’s uranium giant, Kazatomprom, Mukhtar Dzahakishev, who activists at home and abroad say has been imprisoned on political grounds.

The decision on January 4 by the East Kazakhstan Regional Court was criticized by Dzhakishev’s lawyer, Nurlan Beisekeev.

He told RFE/RL that the court had ignored Kazakh law, which, Beisekeev said, states that individuals suffering from health issues cannot be denied early release for failure to pay compensation for the crimes for which they were convicted.

A court in the city of Semei on November 28 denied early release to Dzhakishev, saying that he had not paid such compensation and therefore could not be released on parole.

According to Beisekeev, his client -- who rights groups say is a political prisoner – suffers from extremely high blood pressure.

Beisekeev also says that Dzhakishev served two-thirds of his 14-year term and deserves to be released on parole.

Dzhakishev's supporters and international human rights organizations have urged Kazakh authorities to release him since his arrest in 2009.

In March, the Helsinki Committee Norway and the France-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia called on President Nursultan Nazarbaev to release Dzhakishev for humanitarian reasons, calling him a political prisoner who needs urgent medical assistance.

In 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee asked the Kazakh authorities to cancel Dzhakishev’s conviction and release him immediately. It said that his rights to a fair and public trial, to have contacts with his lawyers, and to be treated humanely had been violated.

Human rights groups in Kazakhstan also called Dzhakishev a political prisoner.

Some government critics believe that he was imprisoned due to his close association with Mukhtar Ablyazov, a vocal critic of Nazarbaev who has been living in the European Union since 2009.

Ablyazov 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 on a murder charge, which he denies and calls 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, 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.