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Kazakh Report: March 28, 2002


28 March 2002

ONE OF THE LEADERS OF DEMOCRATIC CHOICE OF KAZAKHSTAN MOVEMENT ARRESTED
One of the initiators and organizers of the opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), former head of KEGOC which is similar to Russia's Unified Energy Systems and former Energy, Industry and Trade Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov was arrested in Almaty late on 27 March when he came to the finance police department for interrogation in connection with a criminal case opened against him in October last year.

Ablyazov, who is 38, faces two charges. He is accused under Article 307/2 of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan of abuse of power and under Article 310/1 of illegal entrepreneurship while serving as first as KEGOC director(1997-1998), and later as minister(1998-1999). Investigators say Ablyazov transfered property belonging to KEGOC and Ekibastus Energy Station to some private companies.

In November 2001, Ablyazov together with some other former ministers and one regional governor, then still in service, founded DVK. Ablyazov is the first DVK member to be arrested. Criminal cases against other members of DCK movement are underway.

DEMOCRATIC CHOICE OF KAZAKHSTAN HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
The opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) held a press conference in Almaty on 28 March at which Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, former governor of Pavlodar Oblast and one of the movement's leaders, read out a statement.

Replying to a question from RFE/RL, Zhaqiyanov said "This (criminal) case hadn't been in process for three years. And now, when newspapers and deputies have mentioned [Kazakh President Nursultan] Nazarbayev's billions of dollars in Swiss banks, all of a sudden Ablyazov has been arrested. This means there is a political motive. There are hundreds, thousands of criminal cases, and not one of those accused has been taken into custody. I think Ablyazov is innocent. If he did something wrong, they should have say so and proved it three years ago, two years ago. They didn't. Now it looks as though they are searching for dirt under the rug."

Zhaqiyanov said the DVK will convene a protest action on March 30.

U.S. RECOGNIZED KAZAKHSTAN AS COUNTRY WITH MARKET ECONOMY
The U.S. has recognized Kazakhstan as a country with market economy, according to a Kazakh Foreign Ministry press release. That status entails substantial privileges in trade, such as abolishing restrictions on the export of some goods. President Nursultan Nazarbayev told local governors in Astana on 28 March that the U.S. decision was taken in response to a request he made during his visit to Washington in December 2001, as well as thanks to the achievements of the Kazakh government in recent years.

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