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Kazakh Rights Activist Says Lawsuit Ordered From Above

Yevgeny Zhovtis (right) and his lawyer, Sholpan Batkalova. speak about the case in Almaty on August 25.
ALMATY -- A prominent human rights activist in Kazakhstan says he believes a lawsuit being filed against him for his role in a fatal traffic accident was ordered by higher officials, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Yevgeny Zhovtis, the director of the Bureau for Human Rights in Kazakhstan, told journalists in Almaty that he does not know if the order was politically motivated but that he is confident that the lawsuit was ordered by someone.

Zhovtis was driving a car on July 26 on a highway in Almaty Oblast when he struck and killed a man.

A first test showed no alcohol in Zhovtis's blood. A technical examination of the accident reported that he had no chance to avoid the accident, which occurred when a drunk man reportedly entered the street in front of Zhovtis's car.

Kazakh authorities decided several days later to order a second forensics test. That one found alcohol in Zhovtis's blood, and technical experts concluded that Zhovtis might have prevented the accident.

Zhovtis's lawyer, Sholpan Baktalova, told journalists that her client was informed that he was considered to be a witness in the case. Since then, she says, official documents have surfaced that show that an investigator signed a resolution on July 28 identifying Zhovtis as a suspect in the case.

Baktalova says the status of a suspect gives a person specific rights, but the fact that Zhovtis was not aware that he was regarded as a suspect deprived him of those rights.

The court in the town of Bakanas in Almaty Oblast is scheduled to begin hearings on Zhovtis's case on August 27.

Several human rights groups claim that Zhovtis's case is an effort to pressure him because of his pro-opposition activities.