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Detained Kazakh Journalist Says He Is Being Beaten By Cellmates

Kazakh journalist Zhanbolat Mamai in court in Almaty on February 11.

ALMATY -- An independent Kazakh journalist says he was beaten in his cell after being arrested earlier this month on money-laundering charges that he denies.

Zhanbolat Mamai is acting editor of The Sayasi Qalam -- Tribuna (The Political Pen -- Tribune), a publication known for articles critical of the Kazakh government.

Mamai's lawyer, Zhanar Balghabaeva, said her client was beaten by cellmates on February 17.

Balghabaeva told RFE/RL on February 21 that Mamai officially asked the detention center's authorities to secure his safety by moving him to another cell, adding that he even prefers "solitary confinement."

Mamai was detained on February 10 and later charged with laundering money, which the government says was "stolen" by Kazakhstan's fugitive tycoon and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Mamai denies any connection with Ablyazov and says the case against him is politically motivated.

Ablyazov, a former head of Kazakhstan's BTA bank, is currently living abroad.

He is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion. He denies the charges, saying the case against him is politically motivated.

Ablyazov has pledged to topple Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's government within the next three years.

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