Kazakhstan frees prominent prisoner after decade in jail

NURSULTAN                      –                        A court in Kazakhstan on Tuesday freed the former head of the world’s largest uranium producer, who is one of the country’s best-known political prisoners, after a decade behind bars.

Mukhtar Djakishev, 56, who led the state uranium giant Kazatomprom for over 10 years prior to his arrest on embezzlement charges in 2009, was considered a po­litical prisoner by interna­tional rights groups.

The decision of a court in the northeastern city of Semey to release Djakishev with less than four years of his 14-year sentence re­maining came after appeals for early release were re­jected last year and in 2018.

“The court decided to satisfy the request of the convict M.E. Djakishev for early conditional release,” said judge Zhanat Abenova, to whoops and cheers from supporters in the courtroom during proceedings broad­cast live on Facebook.

Djakishev’s legal team has argued that he is seriously ill and requires urgent med­ical attention.

Kazakhstan ignored a demand for his immediate release from the United Na­tions Human Rights Com­mittee in 2015.

Djakishev’s tenure in charge of Kazatomprom saw the company emerge as a leading player on the inter­national uranium market.

Many believe that he paid the price for his close ties to Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker and energy minis­ter who fled the country in 2009 during a struggle over a bank that Ablyazov chaired.

Ablyazov subsequently waged a struggle against the Kazakh regime from abroad, while his supporters and Kazakh civil society groups have continued to champion Djakishev’s case.

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