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Kazakhstan: Trial Of Ex-Prime Minister Starts

Astana, 15 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The trial against Kazakhstan's former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin started today in the country's Supreme Court in Astana. Kazhegeldin, facing charges of embezzlement and abuse of office, did not appear. Judge Bektas Beknazarov said the court proceedings will be open to the public except for certain parts related to state secrets.

State prosecutors pointed out that they have tried a number of ways to contact Kazhegeldin: through his website, by sending letters to his last address in Kazakhstan, and through public statements made at press conferences. Judge Beknazarov decided proper protocol had been observed and ordered him to be tried in absentia if he does not report.

Kazhegeldin says the charges against him are politically motivated. He has been residing abroad in recent years.