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Kazakhstan: EU Questions Trial Of Opposition Figure

Brussels, 12 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union expressed concern today over the imprisonment of Kazakh opposition leader Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov. A Kazakh court early this month convicted Zhaqiyanov, a critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, of abuse of office while he was governor of a northern region. The court invoked a seven-year jail sentence.

The EU issued a statement today, calling on Kazakhstan's government to meet its obligations to respect principles of international law and human rights. It questioned both the pretrial events and the trial procedures themselves.

The U.S. State Department expressed similar concerns last week, saying Zhaqiyanov's sentence appears to be a case of political persecution.

Last November, Zhaqiyanov founded the Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan movement, which advocates greater democracy and business opportunities. He drew international attention in March when he sought refuge at the French Embassy in the commercial capital Almaty to avoid arrest.