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Kazakhstan: President Pardons Jailed Opposition Leader

Almaty, 13 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (pictured) signed a decree today pardoning Mukhtar Abliyazov, the imprisoned opposition leader and former minister of trade and industry. Abliyazov, who is also a co-founder of the Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan movement, is serving a six-year jail term in a labor camp in northern Kazakhstan. He was found guilty of abuse of power and financial mismanagement while in office last year.

His lawyers and supporters claim that the charges were politically motivated. It is not clear when Abliyazov will be released from prison.

Another co-founder of Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice movement, Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, the former governor of Pavlodar Oblast, was also found guilty of similar crimes and is serving a seven-year jail term. His lawyers told journalists earlier this week that their client is going to appeal to Kazakhstan's Supreme Court for revision of his verdict. They added that Zhaqiyanov was not going to ask the president for clemency.