A court in Kazakhstan has ordered the release on parole of jailed opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis wrote on his Facebook on August 4.
Kozlov, the former leader of the banned Alga! opposition party, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for his supposed involvement whipping up unrest in the town of Zhanaozen in December 2011.
Zhovtis wrote of his relief at the news of Kozlov’s imminent release.
“It is true that another 15 days will pass before the decision comes into force, but at last…” he wrote.
Kozlov has appealed for early release on previous occasions without success. On the contrary, the politician appears to have been singled out for particularly harsh punishment by prison authorities for allegedly violating rules.
Last July, officials at Kozlov’s prison colony in Zarechniy in south-eastern Kazakhstan transferred him “to a strict-regime cellblock,” purportedly for offenses that included “speaking ill of the country’s president.” Kozlov was reportedly transferred away from the strict-regime cellblock on August 1.
Kozlov was not present in Zhanaozen at the time of the disturbances, but the government claims he was whipping up strikers with the ultimate aim of overthrowing Nazarbayev. The politician has always steadfastly denied any involvment in the violence and argued at the time that he wished to serve as a negotiator between the government and striking oil workers in the town.
The government’s campaign against Kozlov in effect spelled the death knell for Kazakhstan’s most energetic opposition group. In addition to handing down a jail sentence, the courts in 2012 also ordered the seizure of all property belonging to Alga! registered under Kozlov’s name.
The trial generated only tepid criticism from the West, which typically tempers its concerns over rights issues when dealing with strategically and economically useful partners.
Prosecutors hung their case on claims that Kozlov was acting to topple the government in concert with fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is currently in a French jail pending possible extradition to either Russia or Ukraine, whose authorities are also seeking his arrest.
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