A French court in Aix-En Province on Jan. 9 ordered the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstan's former energy minister, accused of misappropriating $6 billion from BTA Bank. The French court agreed 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 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. Ablyazov also claimed that he had been imprisoned for political reasons prior to these charges. Amnesty International urged against Ablyazov's extradition after the 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." She cited a report (PDF) on the routine cooperation of Russia and Ukraine with Central Asian republics, including Kazakhstan, to transfer suspects, often at risk of their human rights.
A court in Kazakhstan on Oct. 8 sentenced an outspoken political activist to seven-and-a-half years in jail for allegedly colluding with a fugitive billionaire to overthrow the government. Specifically, Judge Berdybek Myrzabekov found Vladimir Kozlov, head of the unofficial Alga! party, guilty of inciting dissent among striking oil workers in what became a series of violent clashes between police and workers that left 15 people dead last December. The judge declared that Kozlov had turned a labor dispute into a politicized strike on orders from billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov, a rival of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Koslov, however, has consistently denied the charges and proclaimed that his case was an attempt by the President to quell civil protests within the country.