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Kazakhstan: Oppositionist Still Holed Up At French Embassy

Almaty, 2 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- French diplomats and Kazakh officials today continued talks to break a deadlock over an opposition leader who took refuge in the French Embassy in Almaty. Galymzhan Zhaqiyanov, a founding member of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and a former governor of the northern Pavlodar Region, took shelter in the French Embassy on 29 March, fleeing an arrest warrant.

Kazakh authorities have charged Zhaqiyanov with abuse of power dating back to when he was regional governor. Zhaqiyanov has denied the charges, arguing that they are politically motivated.

French Ambassador Serge Smessov today said he is still unable to give details of the discussions with Kazakh officials, but he said there is some "positive news."

The French Embassy has asked Zhaqiyanov to leave but has also ruled out handing over the dissident to the authorities.

Yesterday, in a statement from the Forum of Democratic Forces of Kazakhstan and the Democratic Choice, opposition leaders said authorities are attacking freedom of speech, independent media, and democratic parties.