ASTANA – The Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement (DCK), founded by fugitive banker and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov, was declared extremist and illegal by a district court in Astana on Tuesday.
“The court considers the DCK’s activities illegal and banned from the territory of Kazakhstan,” Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Oksana Loskutova said.
Basing its ruling on Kazakhstan’s anti-extremism law, the court found that “DCK leader Mukhtar Ablyazov and his activists’ criminal objective is to overthrow the government, and to take power,” making the group a threat to “state security.”
Prosecutors say that Ablyazov actively encourages Kazakh citizens to join the movement, promotes a negative picture of the current government, provokes protests and systematically stirs up social hatred and discord.
Since the beginning of the year, criminal cases against DCK activities were also opened in five other Kazakh regions, chief criminal prosecutor Yerlan Abayev said.
The Kazakh criminal code classifies extremist activities as serious or very serious offences, punishable by prison sentences of up to 17 years.
“I want to emphasize that participation does not only mean directly taking part in extremist activities, but also performing other actions in the organization’s interest: providing transport, publishing their publications, leaflets, posts and comments and systematically providing shelter for group members,” Abayev said.
At the same time, according to Loskutova, current Kazakh legislation provides that people who “conscientiously end their activities for an extremist group are exempted from criminal liability.”
An appeals court in Almaty last August upheld a prison sentence of 20 years for Ablyazov for criminal conspiracy, embezzlement and money laundering during his time as head of one of the Central Asian country’s largest banks, BTA.
Once a prominent opposition leader, Ablyazov went into exile in France in 2009. In December 2016, a French court rejected a Russian request for his extradition, calling it politically motivated.