Kazakh opposition under threat

A government prosecutor in Kazakhstan has begun action to have the central Asian country's main opposition party shut down.

    Kazakhstan's parliament has no opposition members

    Accusing the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) of breeching national security, the law suit filed on Thursday said the party was also "fomenting social unrest".

    The case has been filed at a court in Kazakhstan's southern commercial capital Almaty, but the prosecutor was not available for comment.

    However, DCK said the move to shut it down was in revenge for criticism of this year's parliamentary elections.
       
    "The reason [for the suit] is a political declaration adopted at the party's last session, which summarised the results of dishonest and unfair elections to the Majilis (lower chamber) of parliament," DCK said in a statement.
       
    Party details

    DCK's leader is Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, a former governor of Pavlodar province who was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2002 for abuse of power.
       
    Along with opposition allies, Zhakiyanov's party has accused President Nursultan Nazarbayev's government of rigging a parliamentary election in September, which resulted in a chamber devoid of any opposition members.
       
    Nazarbayev, who has ruled the vast oil-rich country between China and the Caspian Sea with sweeping powers since 1989, has said he will seek re-election for another seven-year term in 2006.

    Political tax probe

    In another possible setback for opposition groups in the former Soviet republic, the Soros Foundation - a pro-democracy group set up by billionaire financier George Soros - said it believed a tax investigation against it was an attempt to force it out of the country. 
       

    Nazarbayev has been president
    since 1989

    Kazakhstan's financial police said this week they had launched a criminal case into the Soros Foundation in Kazakhstan over 81 million tenge ($620,000) in tax arrears from 2002 to 2004.
       
    The foundation said it had paid the tax and had sought assurances from Nazarbayev that it was not being hounded out of the country, but received no reply. 
       
    Soros and aid

    Soros-funded democracy groups across the former Soviet Union have come under pressure in the last year, accused of helping to orchestrate mass demonstrations against rigged elections in Georgia and Ukraine.
       
    Soros foundations have been forced out of Uzbekistan and Belarus on financial and legal technicalities that they said were designed to stop their work.

    Of the five former Soviet Central Asian states, Kazakhstan is currently receiving the most US aid - some US$92 million in 2004, according to the US Department of State.

    More than half of the aid came in the form of security and military assistance, including helicopters, military cargo aircraft and coast guard vessels for use in defending the country's interests in the Caspian Sea.

    "Kazakhstan is an important country in the global war on terror and has been wonderfully helpful in Iraq , and I came here to personally say 'thank you' and express our appreciation," US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said during his visit in February 2004.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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