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Prominent Kazakh Rights Activist Jailed On Fraud Charges

Makhambet Abzhan in an Astana court on November 27.
Makhambet Abzhan in an Astana court on November 27.

ASTANA -- A court in Astana has sentenced Makhambet Abzhan, a local property rights activist, to 3 1/2 years in jail after finding him guilty on charges of fraud.

The Saryarqa District Court in the Kazakh capital on November 27 also ordered the confiscation of Abzhan's property.

Abzhan stated after the verdict and sentence were pronounced that the case was "most likely" politically motivated. He said he would appeal the court's ruling.

Abzhan was arrested in June and charged with fraudulent activities. His friends and supporters insist the case against him was politically motivated retaliation for his rights activities.

Abzhan has been campaigning for the rights of would-be homeowners in Astana who made full or partial house payments to construction companies but never received an apartment or refund.

In 2006, Abzhan was found guilty of financial fraud while he was running in an election as a candidate for the Astana City Council. He was sentenced to three years in jail in that case.

Since his release, Abzhan has organized public protests to support would-be homeowners.

He has also been involved in street demonstrations against the launch of Russian Proton rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and against Moscow's leasing of military test fields in Kazakhstan.

In August 2016, the Saryarqa District Court sentenced Abzhan to one year of "limited freedom," a parole-like sentence, after finding him guilty of insulting and assaulting police.

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