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Kozlov of Kazakhstan jailed for 7.5 years

09 october 2012, 18:48
Vladimir Kozlov. Photo by Yaroslav Radlovskiy©
Vladimir Kozlov. Photo by Yaroslav Radlovskiy©
Kazakhstan on Monday convicted an opposition leader of inciting an attempted coup against President Nursultan Nazarbayev and sentenced him to seven-and-a-half years in a penal colony, AFP reports.

The Aktau city court convicted Vladimir Kozlov on charges of creating a criminal group, inciting social hatred, and making calls for a violent coup, the court's press service told AFP.

Kozlov, head of the unregistered Alga party in the oil-rich state, was arrested January after participating in oil workers' protests that killed 15 people, tarnishing the country's image of Central Asia's safe haven.

The 52-year-old was arrested shortly after Kazakhstan's parliamentary polls in January, which gave Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party almost 81 percent of the vote but were called undemocratic by international monitors.

He was arrested together with two other people, opposition activist Serik Sapargali and trade unionist Akzhanat Aminov, both of whom received suspended sentences Monday.

Kozlov's belongings were to be confiscated as part of the decision.

The prosecution accused Kozlov, Aminov and Sapargali of fuelling social hatred during last December's protests by oil workers in the Caspian sea town of Zhanaozen, which descended into the country's worst bloodshed since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kozlov pleaded not guilty during the trial and accused the prosecution of politicising the case and convicting him of something he did not do, denying that he ever called for violent action.

Kozlov had been one of Nazarbayev's most vocal critics during the conflict, accusing the authorities of opening fire on demonstrating workers and torturing those detained in the clashes with police.

Before his arrest he was known as an ally of exiled Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former minister turned top opponent of Nazarbayev who fled the country in 2009 and is wanted on fraud charges.

Human rights organisations slammed the post-election crackdown on Kozlov and other opposition activists.

"Persuading fired workers to continue their protest action is a legitimate exercise of freedom of speech," Human Rights Watch wrote last month in an extensive report about labour rights in Kazakhstan's oil industry.

The United States on Tuesday voiced concern over this week's jailing of Kazakhstan's leading opposition leader, accusing its oil-rich ally of using its criminal justice system to silence critics.

In a statement Tuesday, the US embassy noted "concern regarding the prosecution of Vladimir Kozlov and the apparent use of the criminal system to silence opposition voices."

Nazarbayev has beeen president of the ex-Soviet country for almost 22 years, bringing economic reforms and prosperity through energy riches, but cracking down on human rights and political opponents.

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