ASTANA (TCA) — A vocal critic of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his government, fugitive former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, has been convicted in absentia on a murder charge and sentenced to life in prison, RFE/RL reported.
The court in the southern city of Taraz pronounced the sentence on November 27 after finding Ablyazov guilty of organizing the 2004 murder of Erzhan Tatishev, the head of TuranAlem bank — which was later renamed BTA.
Ablyazov, a former BTA head who lives abroad, is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion.
In March, jailed businessman Muratkhan Toqmadi was convicted of killing Tatishev and sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison.
Toqmadi pleaded guilty to murdering Tatishev on a hunting trip and said he killed the banker at the behest of Ablyazov.
After Tatishev’s death, which was ruled an accident at the time, Ablyazov became the bank’s chief.
He has been living abroad since 2009.
In a separate in absentia trial that ended in 2017, Ablyazov was convicted of embezzlement, abuse of office, and organizing a criminal group and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Ablyazov denies all the charges, saying they are politically motivated, and has called the claim that he ordered Tatishev’s killing a “lie.”
Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.
Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbayev, who has held power in Kazakhstan since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.