SEMEI, Kazakhstan -- The jailed former president of Kazakhstan's uranium giant Kazatomprom, Mukhtar Dzhakishev, has been denied early release for the second time in months.
Judge Ermek Shymyrov ruled in a court in the northeastern city of Semei on July 24 that Dzhakishev cannot be released on parole because he did not pay 99 billion tenges ($260 million) for unspecified costs to the state.
Dzhakishev, who took part in the hearing via a video link, refused to address the judge as "Your Honor," instead referring to him as "Mister Judge," as he reiterated his innocence, stressing that all previous rulings regarding his case "are united by one thing, which is absence of the truth."
"The thing is that truth is not a disease, one cannot get it via vaccination or infection," Dzhakishev said. "Truth is inside each of us. Each one of us has a right to make a right choice. Even the words that are whispered can be more raucous than thunderstorms. I hope very much that we will make the right choice, that a person in a prosecutor's uniform will feel a deep respect for his compatriot. To when we will look with deep respect at a judge who coordinates his decisions with his honor and not with a phone call from above."
Dzhakishev's supporters and international human rights organizations have urged Kazakh authorities to release him since his arrest in 2009.
In March last year, the Helsinki Committee Norway and the France-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia called on then President Nursultan Nazarbaev to release Dzhakishev for humanitarian reasons, calling him a political prisoner who needs urgent medical assistance.
In 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee asked the Kazakh authorities to cancel Dzhakishev’s conviction and release him immediately. It said that his rights to a fair and public trial, to have contacts 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 vocal critic of Nazarbaev 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 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 lifetime chairman of the country’s Security Council.
Nazarbaev also holds the title of elbasy, or leader of the nation.
Dzhakishev's first motion for early release was rejected by a court in Semei in November.