Kazakhstan in move to ban opposition parties and media
By Dmitry Solovyov and Robin Paxton
ALMATY (Reuters) - The Central Asian state of Kazakhstan has moved to ban two opposition movements critical of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and to close dozens of opposition media outlets for "propagating extremism".
In a step the opposition denounced as an attack on dissent in the oil-exporting former Soviet republic, prosecutors linked their request to last month's jailing of Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the unregistered Alga! or "Forward!" party.
Kozlov was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years for trying to rally workers in a failed attempt to topple the government. After his trial, the United States accused Kazakhstan of using its justice system "to silence opposition voices".
Nazarbayev, 72, has run Central Asia's most successful economy and largest oil producer for more than two decades, tolerating little dissent in pursuit of market reforms and foreign investment that has exceeded $150 billion.
As well as leading Alga!, Kozlov, a fierce critic of Nazarbayev, was leader of the country's unofficial Halyk Maidany, or People's Front movement, which tried to unite groups with specific grievances against the government.
He was found guilty of colluding with fugitive anti-government billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov and of orchestrating dissent among striking oilmen in the prelude to riots last December that killed 15 people and dented Kazakhstan's reputation for stability.
Nurdaulet Suindikov, spokesman for the prosecutor-general's office, on Wednesday accused the two opposition movements Kozlov led and various media outlets of "propagating extremism".
"Kozlov's sentence established that the activity of the unregistered Alga! and Halyk Maidany movements, as well as the activity of a number of mass media outlets, was extremist," he said. Continued...