ASTANA -- Kazakh authorities have deported two observers from the Italian Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) after not allowing them to meet a Kazakh judge who was fired following the acquittal by his court of an opposition activist earlier this month.
Colleagues and friends of Lyudmyla Voloshyna and Valeriy Yavtushenko, both Ukrainian nationals, told RFE/RL that police detained the two observers in Astana on February 14 and brought them to a court that ordered them deported.
The two left Kazakhstan early on February 15.
The Ukrainian consul in Astana, Ivan Almashi, told RFE/RL that Kazakh authorities did not allow him to meet with Voloshyna and Yavtushenko while they were in custody or to attend their court hearing.
"This is a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," he said. "We will prepare a special note regarding this."
Media reports quoted police as saying that Voloshyna and Yavtushenko were deported because they had declared the purpose of their stay in Kazakhstan as private, while in fact they were conducting a mission for a human rights group.
An IFHR representative in Poland, Maksim Sytnikov, told RFE/RL the two monitors were scheduled to meet with Malik Kenzhaliev, the former chief judge of the western city of Aqtau. Kenzhaliev was fired after his court on February 6 acquitted opposition activist Aigul Aqberdieva in a high-profile case.
Aqberdieva was accused of making social-media posts that called for the overthrow of the government. Her husband, Ablovas Zhumaev, was convicted on the same charge in September and sentenced to three years in prison.
Both defendants declared their innocence and said the charges against them were politically motivated.
Kenzhaliev said in several video statements released on February 11 that his dismissal was politically motivated. He asked international human rights organizations and Western governments to help him and his colleagues.
However, on February 14, after it became known that Voloshyna and Yavtushenko had been detained, Kenzhaliev issued a new video in which he retracted his earlier statements.
"I am stating officially that I do not need any legal help from international human rights organizations or foreign governments," he said. "I ask that my name not be used for various insinuations by people both inside the country and abroad."
He said that he had misunderstood the situation around the Aqberdieva acquittal and praised the policies of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his government regarding reforms of the judicial system.