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France court orders extradition of former Kazakhstan energy minsiter

A French court in Aix-En Province order the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov [BBC profile], Kazakhstan's former energy minister accused of misappropriating $6 billion from BTA Bank [corporate website]. The French court agreed [AP report] to the extradition requests from Russia and Ukraine, which both house BTA Bank branches, partly because France does not have an extradition agreement with Kazakhstan. In 2011 Ablyazov gained political asylum [UK Guardian report] in the UK after alleging that he faced prosecution in Kazakhstan because he was the leading figure in the opposition against Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev [BBC profile]. Ablyazov also claimed that he had been imprisoned for political reasons prior to these charges. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged [press release] against Ablyazov's extradition on Thursday after the French court's ruling. Julie Hall, AI expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, said, "Not only do we have fears that Ablyazov would not get a fair trial in Russia or Ukraine, there is a real danger that he will eventually end up in Kazakhstan, where he will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment." Her fears are brought about by a report [text, PDF] on the routine cooperation of Russia and Ukraine with central Asian republics, including Kazakhstan, to transfer people back to the area, often in violation of human rights.

Kazakhstan has recently drawn international criticism for its human rights record. In November a court in Kazakhstan upheld [JURIST report] the conviction of an outspoken opposition leader accused of inciting dissent in an attempt to overthrow the government. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] claimed that oil workers in the country face mistreatment [JURIST report] and repression at the hands of the government and oil companies. In August HRW urged Kazakhstan to ensure that the trials of Kozlov, another political activist, and an oil worker comport with international legal standards [JURIST report] for fair trials. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for an independent probe [JURIST report] into the December unrest between oil workers and an oil company. In June HRW demanded [JURIST report] that the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan publicly disclose the reason for bringing new charges against a group of labor activists and an oil worker who participated in the December unrest. The committee charged them with "calling for the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order." Earlier that month a court in Kazakhstan sentenced [JURIST report] 13 out of 37 defendants to between three and seven years of imprisonment for their participation in unrest that occurred last December. Sixteen of the remaining defendants faced conditional sentences [BBC report] while five defendants were given amnesty and three were acquitted.

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