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Kazakhstan court sentences 47 individuals on terrorism charges

A court in Kazakhstan [official website] sentenced 47 individuals to 15-year prison terms Thursday on charges relating to terrorist attacks and financing extremist activities. The convicted individuals are alleged to be members of a terrorist group [AP report] and were subjected to a month-long trial, beginning in March and ending Wednesday. The violence presented a threat to the administration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev [official website, in Kazakh; BBC profile] who has been in power in Kazakhstan for more than two decades following Soviet Communist rule. The trial and information pertaining to it were not entirely accessible by the public, and the lack of transparency has raised concerns of possible human rights violations. Relatives of the accused are worried that the country's main constitutional values: freedom of expression, freedom of the press and respect for human life, are meaningless and are fearful to express their opinions and concerns [Reuters report].

Human rights groups have closely scrutinized Kazakhstan's adherence to its international human rights obligations. In October Nazarbayev signed a restrictive law to curb religious extremism after the Kazakhstani parliament passed the bill [JURIST reports] a month earlier. Last April Nazarbayev discharged six justices [JURIST report] of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazkhstan for corruption. Kazakhstan submitted to a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council [official websites] in February 2010. Kazakhstan accepted 121 of the recommendations [Kazakhstan UPR materials] to reduce human rights violation, particularly with respect to freedom of the press. In August 2009, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction [JURIST report] of publisher Ramazan Esergepov, who was sentenced to three years in jail for revealing state secrets in his newspaper. A representative of Freedom of the Media at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [official websites] said that revealing public corruption [press release] is the "main duty of the journalists acting in the public interest," and that "[c]riminal sanctions for 'breach of secrecy' should only apply to the officials whose job descriptions stipulate the duty to protect sensitive information, but not to citizens."

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