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Manslaughter Trial Of Kazakh Rights Activist Begins

Yevgeny Zhovtis faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Yevgeny Zhovtis faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

The manslaughter trial of a prominent Kazakh human rights activist begins today in Bakanas District Court in Almaty Oblast, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Yevgeny Zhovtis, the director of the International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law in Almaty, was driving a car on July 26 on a highway in Almaty Oblast when he struck and killed a man.

He faces up to five years in jail if found guilty.

He told journalists last week that he believes the lawsuit being filed against him for his role in the accident was ordered by higher officials.

A first test performed right after the accident showed no alcohol in Zhovtis' blood. A technical examination of the accident reported that Zhovtis had no chance to avoid the accident, which occurred when a drunken man reportedly entered the street in front of his car.

However, several days later, Kazakh authorities ordered a second forensics test. That one found alcohol in Zhovtis’ blood, and technical experts concluded that Zhovtis might have avoided hitting the man.

Several human rights groups claim that the case is an effort to pressure Zhovtis due to his pro-opposition activities.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Kazakh officials to provide Zhovtis with a fair and transparent trial, saying it fears political interference.

"The government's past harassment of its critics and its handling of the case thus far raise concerns that it could be used for political purposes," HRW said in a statement.

(Read more about the trial here.)

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