Human rights defenders urge France to prevent Ablyazov’s extradition to Kazakhstan

Human rights defenders urge France to prevent Ablyazov’s extradition to Kazakhstan

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 2 / Trend E. Kosolapova/

The non-governmental organization focused on human rights Amnesty International urges France to prevent extradition of fugitive Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov to Kazakhstan, the organization said.

"The authorities in France must ensure that Mukhtar Ablyazov has a full and fair extradition process and that he is not sent to any country that may return him to Kazakhstan where he will be at risk of torture and an unfair trial," Amnesty International said.

The organization believes there is a high risk that if extradited to Ukraine Ablyazov would be subjected to onward transfer to Kazakhstan where he would face an unfair trial and possible torture and other ill-treatment.

"The Kazakh authorities want Mukhtar Ablyazov at all costs," Director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Programme John Dalhuisen said.

Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine are currently seeking the extradition of Ablyazov for the economic crimes committed in their territories.

Ablyazov is wanted by Kazakhstan's authorities on fraud and embezzlement charges while he was heading Kazakh BTA Bank. Ablyazov fled to the UK claiming an asylum against political persecution after the initiation of criminal investigation in early 2009. In May 2011, the British court refused to recognize claims that the case was politically motivated and upheld the bank's claims. In February, 2012 the UK High Court sentenced Mukhtar Ablyazov to 22 months of imprisonment for contempt of court. However, the sentence has not been carried out so far, because his whereabouts has not been established. Moreover, according to some Kazakh media outlets and officials, Ablyazov had a direct relationship to the mass riots in the city of Zhanaozen on December 16, 2011 when at least 14 people were killed.
Mukhtarov is also a political opponent of the country's President Nursultan Nazarbayev who allegedly funds radical opposition within the country.

In late May the wife of the fugitive oligarch Alma Shalabayeva, and their six-year-old daughter were detained in a overnight raid in Italy. They were rushed onto a private jet with Kazakh diplomats and flown back to Kazakhstan.
UN human rights experts have condemned this deportation and called on Italian authorities to facilitate the return of Alma Shalabayeva, and her daughter to Italy.

A great scandal broke out in Italy following this deportation which led to the resignation of Interior Minister Angelino Alfano's chief of staff Giuseppe Procaccini. Moreover, the Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government would have been in peril if Alfano had failed to pass the confidence test. However the Italian Senate rejected a no-confidence motion in Deputy Premier and Interior Minister. The review of the case also found irregularities in the protocol followed by Kazakhstan's ambassador to Rome, Andrian Yelemessov, who pressured the interior ministry to hand over Ablyazov's kin.

Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said behavior of Kazakhstan's ambassador to Rome during this case was inexcusable.
"I think it is clear that, after this episode, the quality of our relations will depend on Astana's willingness to offer its essential cooperation in safeguarding the rights of Alma Shalabayeva and of her 6-year-old child," Bonino said in parliament.

According to the head of information-publishing project "Who's Who in Kazakhstan" Daniar Ashimbayev, the uproar over Shalabayeva's deportation was initiated by Mukhtar Ablyazov to distract the attention of the public and media from himself and his crimes. The expert noted that Ablyazov had problems with the justice system not only in Kazakhstan but as well as in other countries such as UK, Russia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.
Another Kazakh political scientist Dosym Satpaev believes the deportation of Mukhtar Ablyazov's wife and daughter can strengthen his position in the eyes of Western society as he looks as a political victim.
"His defeats in the court may be compensated by diplomatic victories, which can severely damage the image of Kazakh authorities," Dosym Satpaev said.

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