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Kazakhstan: U.S. Raises Concerns Over Conviction

Washington, 7 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S State Department has raised concerns over the conviction of Kazakh opposition leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, saying that his sentence appears to be a case of political persecution. Zhaqiyanov, one of the founders of the Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan opposition movement, was sentenced to seven years in prison last week for illegally selling state property while governor of the Pavlodar region from 1997 to 2001. Another founder of the movement was convicted last month on similar charges. The movement has been critical of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, accusing the president of holding money in bank accounts abroad.

In a statement released yesterday, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the timing of the two arrests and convictions suggests that they were politically motivated. He said the United States believes that harassment of opposition figures and the independent media poses a serious threat to democracy in Kazakhstan.

Zhaqiyanov has said he intends to appeal the court decision.