[JURIST] A French appellate court on Wednesday overturned the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov [BBC profile], Kazakhstan’s former energy minister accused of misappropriating USD $6 billion from BTA Bank [corporate website]. In January, a French trial court in the Aix-En Province agreed [JURIST report] to extradition requests from Russia and Ukraine, both of which house BTA Bank branches, partly because France does not have an extradition agreement with Kazakhstan. In 2011 Ablyazov gained political asylum 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.
Human rights advocates have criticized Ablyazov’s extradition. Amnesty International (AI) in January urged [press release] against Ablyazov’s extradition after the French court’s ruling. Julie Hall, AI expert on counter-terrorism and human rights expressed concern that Ablyazov would not receive a fair trial in Russia or Ukraine, and that he would eventually end up in Kazakhstan, where he would 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) claimed that oil workers in the country face mistreatment [JURIST report] and repression at the hands of the government and oil companies.