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Kazakh Court Grants Early Release To Former Uranium Tycoon Dzhakishev

Mukhtar Dzhakishev sits in a high-security detention facility in the Kazakh capital, now Nur-Sultan, in July 2009.
Mukhtar Dzhakishev sits in a high-security detention facility in the Kazakh capital, now Nur-Sultan, in July 2009.

SEMEI, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh court has granted an early release to former state nuclear company chief executive Mukhtar Dzhakishev, whose conviction on corruption charges in 2010 was criticized by many as politically motivated.

A court in the northeastern city of Semei ruled on March 3 that Dzhakishev will not be allowed to leave the country and will live under parole-like restrictions until his 14-year term is over.

It was the third official request for early release since November 2018 by the former tycoon, who has served about 11 years of his sentence and has complained of health issues. Dzhakishev took part in the hearing from a correctional institution via Skype.

Dzhakishev will be released 15 days after the court's ruling takes effect if prosecutors do not appeal the decision.

Dozens of rights activists and supporters from different parts of Kazakhstan gathered in the courtroom and chanted "Freedom to Mukhtar!" before the ruling was pronounced and broke out into emotional shouts and cheers as Judge Zhanat Abenova read the decision.

Dzhakishev's supporters and international human rights organizations have urged the 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 of his health.

In 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee asked the Kazakh authorities to annul Dzhakishev's conviction and release him immediately. It said that his rights 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 2019 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 powerful Security Council.

Nazarbaev also holds the title of "elbasy," or leader of the nation.

On February 29, current President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said in an interview with online magazine that he was "confident that the decision on the next early release request by Dzhakishev will be fair."

With reporting by Reuters
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