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Malik Kenzhaliev said his firing was politically motivated.

The chief judge of a court in western Kazakhstan has been fired after his court acquitted an opposition activist in a high-profile case.

The Manghystau regional court said on February 11 that Malik Kenzhaliev was fired for violating rights of workers whom he had hired to build a private cottage along the Caspian Sea shore, but did not pay them the agreed sum of money.

Kenzhaliev said his firing was politically motivated and accused the regional court, the Supreme Court, the National Security Committee, and the police of putting pressure on him and his colleagues.

Kenzhaliev said in a video statement on Facebook on February 11 that he was fired right after his judge, Gulnar Baiturova, had acquitted Aigul Aqberdieva in a case that stemmed from her social-media posts.

Kenzhaliev also said that police in Aqtau prevented him from holding a press conference in a local hotel on February 11 by harassing and interrogating people who gathered for the briefing.

In a second February 11 video statement on Facebook, Kenzhaliev called on international human rights organizations, the European Union, the United States, and Canada to help him and his colleagues and provide them with legal protection.

The 39-year-old Aqberdieva was acquitted on February 6.

She was accused of posting messages on social-media accounts belonging to the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement to call for the "forceful overthrow the government."

Aqberdieva went on trial in September, four days after her 45-year-old husband, Ablovas Zhumaev, was found guilty of the same charge and sentenced to three years in prison.

Both Aqberidieva and her husband pleaded not guilty and said their cases were politically motivated.

The couple has four children, the youngest of whom is 2 years old.

Kazakhstan banned the DVK in March 2018, accusing it of extremism.

The political movement was founded by fugitive former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, who has been a vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

In November, Ablyazov was sentenced in absentia to life in prison by a Kazakh court for murder. He has denied the charge and called it politically motivated.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, in power since before the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

A Ukrainian Activist's Deathbed Plea
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The head of Ukraine’s Kherson regional parliament is suspected of organizing the killing of anticorruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk last year, prosecutors say.

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko wrote on Facebook on February 11 that Vladyslav Manher had been notified of the accusation against him.

Vladyslav Manher
Vladyslav Manher

According to a document posted by Lutsenko, Manher felt "personal enmity" toward Handzyuk because of her efforts to reveal "illegal deforestation" in the region.

Handzyuk, a 33-year-old civic activist and adviser to the mayor of the Black Sea port city of Kherson, died in November -- three months after she was severely injured in an acid attack.

Five suspects, including a police officer, have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack on Handzyuk.

Her death came amid a wave of attacks against Ukraine’s civic activists, with human rights activists claiming law enforcement agencies have failed to thoroughly investigate the cases and may even be complicit in some of the attacks.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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