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Kazakh Opposition Challenges Court's Sarsenbaev Ruling

Altynbek Sarsenbaev at the funeral of opposition figure Zamanbek Nurkadilov in December 2005 (RFE/RL) ALMATY, December 12, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh opposition leaders today challenged a court decision to uphold the death and jail sentences for 10 defendants convicted of involvement in the February killing of Naghiz AK Zhol party cochairman Altynbek Sarsenbaev and two of his aides, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

The Supreme Court's criminal chamber on December 8 ruled that the sentences were fair and dismissed claims that the three men were killed upon orders from state officials.

Sarsenbaev's friends believe the sentences serve to cover up a contract political killing.

Naghiz Ak Zhol leader Tolegen Zhukeev told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service today that lawyers for his party and Sarsenbaev's family will appeal to the Supreme Court's higher chamber, but without high hopes.

"The [Supreme] Court will continue hearing the case," he said. "So far only its criminal collegium has heard the case. Unfortunately we don't have great hopes. I don't think the case will be examined the way we would like it to be [because] is clear that a thorough investigation would lead to scandalous findings."

A regional court on August 31 sentenced former security officer Rustam Ibragimov to death on charges of planning and carrying out the assassination of Sarsenbaev, his bodyguard, and his driver. The sentence will not be carried out as long as Kazakhstan maintains its moratorium on executions.

Another nine people received jail terms of between three and 20 years. The defendants claim they confessed under duress.

(with material from Interfax-Kazakhstan)

Kazakhstan's Fallen Opposition

Kazakhstan's Fallen Opposition
Slain Kazakh journalist Askhat Sharipzhanov (undated RFE/RL file photo)

February 13, 2006: Altynbek Sarsenbaev -- a leader of the Kazakh opposition, co-chairman of the Naghyz Aq Zhol party, former minister of information, former Kazakh ambassador to Russia, former secretary of Kazakhstan's Security Council -- is found dead with his bodyguard and his driver, shot to death, execution style, with their hands bound behind their backs.

November 11, 2005: Zamanbek Nurkadilov-- prominent Kazakh politician, former mayor of Almaty, former Minister of Extraordinary Situations, and since a vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev since March 2004 -- is found shot to death, with two shots in his chest and one in his head. Kazakh authorities officially rule the case a suicide.

June 2, 2005: Batyrkhan Darimbet -- opposition journalist and editor in chief of the weekly AZAT -- is killed in what is officially reported as a traffic accident. Relatives and activists assert that it was a political killing.

December 19, 2004: Erzhan Tatishev -- head of Kazakhstan's largest bank, TuranAlemBank -- is killed in what was officially described as a hunting accident. Kazakh political observers allege that it was a premeditated assassination.

July 20, 2004: Askhat Sharipzhan-- independent journalist and political commentator for NAVI online -- dies of injuries sustained several days earlier in what was officially reported as a hit-and-run accident. Relatives and colleagues believe it was an assassination.

November17, 2002: Independent journalist Nuri Muftakh is killed in what is officially reported as a traffic accident. Colleagues and activists regard the death as suspicious.

January 4, 2002: Human rights activist Aleksei Pugaev is found dead, the victim of a hit-and-run car accident. Colleagues regard the circumstances as suspicious and no one is ever arrested in connection with the death.

(compiled by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service)


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