Kazakh prosecutor appeals to free jailed opposition leader

A prosecutor in Kazakhstan has appealed a court ruling to grant early release to a jailed opposition leader, the prosecutor-general's office said Monday, a move the opposition criticized as a deliberate attempt to drag out his release. Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, 41, leader of the now-disbanded Democratic Choice party, was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2002 on abuse of office charges. His supporters and international rights groups say the charges were politically motivated.

On Dec. 21, a special prosecutor for penal institutions appealed the Dec. 14 court ruling to grant Zhakiyanov early release on good behavior because of his alleged gross violations of prison rules, the chief prosecutor's office said. In a statement, the opposition For a Fair Kazakhstan alliance said the appeal was arbitrary and demanded Zhakiyanov's immediate release.

The court ruling on Zhakiyanov's release followed long-term President Nursultan Nazarbayev's overwhelming re-election to a new seven-year term on Dec. 4 in a vote in the oil-rich, ex-Soviet Central Asian country that Western observers said was flawed. Nazarbayev, a former Communist boss, who is criticized for authoritarianism, pledged political liberalization if re-elected.

However, in the past two weeks, authorities suspended an opposition newspaper for allegedly insulting the president and opened several criminal cases against another opposition leader, that he claims are politically motivated, reports the AP. I.L.

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