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Jailed Kazakh Businessman Gets New Prison Sentence In High-Profile Case

Kazakh businessman Muratkhan Tokmadi after his arrest. Photo from the website of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan.

TARAZ, Kazakhstan -- A jailed Kazakh businessman, Muratkhan Toqmadi, has been sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison in a high-profile and politically charged murder case.

The verdict was delivered by the Zhambyl Regional Court on March 16.

In February, Toqmadi pleaded guilty to murdering Erzhan Tatishev, the chief of TuranAlem Bank, on a hunting trip in 2004.

Toqmadi has already been serving a three-year prison term on an extortion and illegal firearms possession conviction since June.

Toqmadi told the court that he murdered the banker at the behest of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive tycoon and vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

After Tatishev's death, which was ruled an accident at the time, Ablyazov became the bank's chief.

Wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion, Ablyazov has been living abroad since 2009.

He denies the embezzlement charges and has called allegations that he ordered Toqmadi's killing a "lie."

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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