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Jailed Former Kazakh Uranium Tycoon Dzhakishev Denied Early Release

Mukhtar Dzhakishev in 2009

SEMEI, Kazakhstan -- The jailed former president of Kazakhstan's uranium giant Kazatomprom, Mukhtar Dzhakishev, has been denied early release.

A court in the northeastern city of Semei refused to grant early release to Dzhakishev on November 28, his lawyer Nurlan Beisekeev told RFE/RL.

According to Beisekeev, his client -- who rights groups say is a political prisoner -- served two-thirds of his 14-year term and deserves to be released on parole.

Court officials told RFE/RL that Dzhakishev was denied early release because he did not pay compensation for unspecified costs caused by the crime for which he was convicted.

Dzhakishev's supporters and international human rights organizations have urged Kazakh authorities to release him since his arrest in 2009.

In March, the Helsinki Committee Norway and the France-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia called on 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 vocal critic of Nazarbaev who has been living in the European Union since 2009.

Ablyazov is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion.

On November 27, a Kazakh court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison on a murder charge, which he vehemently denies and calls politically motivated.

Another Kazakh court earlier sentenced Ablyazov to 20 years in prison in absentia after convicting him of organizing and leading a criminal group, abuse of office, embezzlement, and financial mismanagement.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

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