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Kazakh Court Sentences Three Men In Case Linked To Fugitive Tycoon

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Kenzhebek Abishev, Oralbek Omyrov, and Almat Zhumagulov appear in court in October.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh court has sentenced three men to lengthy prison terms in a case that prosecutors said was linked to a political movement founded by a fugitive tycoon.

The court in Almaty on December 21 found Kenzhebek Abishev, Oralbek Omirov, and Almat Zhumaghulov guilty of disseminating terrorism. Zhumaghulov was also found guilty of inciting ethnic hatred.

Prosecutors alleged that the three, who were arrested in November 2017, planned a holy war by spreading the ideas of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, an organization that has been branded a terrorist group by Kazakh authorities and banned in March.

All three defendants pleaded not guilty when the trial started on October 1, calling the case against them politically motivated.

In late November, Zhumaghulov and Omirov slashed their forearms during their trial in protest.

The Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan was founded by Mukhtar Ablyazov, an outspoken critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his government.

Kazakh rights groups have said the three men should be considered political prisoners.

Ablyazov was the head of a bank known as BTA. He is wanted in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion.

He has denied all the charges.

Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.

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