Former Kazakh state nuclear company head Mukhtar Dzhakishev, whose conviction on corruption charges in 2010 was criticized by many as politically motivated, has been released from prison.
Dzhakishev on March 19 left the prison in the northeastern city of Semei after a Kazakh court on March 3 granted him an early release. The court ruled that Dzhakishev will not be allowed to leave the country and will live under parole-like restrictions until his 14-year term is over.
Observers and human rights organizations widely consider Dzhakishev a political prisoner.
Dozens of his supporters greeted him outside the prison.
The former tycoon, who has served about 11 years of his sentence, has complained of health issues.
Dzhakishev's supporters and international human rights organizations have urged Kazakh authorities to release him since his arrest in 2009.
In March 2018, the Helsinki Committee Norway and the France-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia called on then-President Nursultan Nazarbaev to release Dzhakishev on humanitarian grounds because because he had a number of health issues.
In 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee asked the Kazakh authorities to annul Dzhakishev’s conviction and release him immediately. It said that his right to a fair and public trial, to have contact with his lawyers, and to be treated humanely had been violated.
Human rights groups in Kazakhstan also called Dzhakishev a political prisoner. Some government critics believe that he was imprisoned because he was a close friend of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a self-exiled former banker and opposition politician, who has been living in the European Union since 2009, the year when Dzhakishev was arrested.
Many in Kazakhstan hoped that after Nazarbaev's sudden resignation in March last year, Dzhakishev would be paroled.
Nazarbaev, 79, had been president since before Kazakhstan became independent in 1991. He continues to play a crucial role in the country’s political life as the leader of the ruling Nur-Otan party and the chairman for life of the country’s powerful Security Council.
Nazarbaev also holds the title of elbasy, or leader of the nation.
On February 29, Kazakhstan's current President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said in an interview with online magazine Informburo.kz that he was "confident that the decision on the next early release request by Dzhakishev will be fair."