French President Emanuel Macron (right) welcomes Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev to Paris on November 29.
ASTANA -- Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vasilenko has rejected a report by Le Figaro newspaper, saying that the issue of fugitive Kazakh oligarch and opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov was not discussed at a meeting between President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
Ablyazov, an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government who received political asylum in France several years ago, is wanted in Kazakhstan and Russia on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion. Ablyazov rejects the charge as politically motivated. Vasilenko said on November 30 that Macron and Toqaev discussed "political, trade, and economic cooperation and education ties" when they met the day before in the French capital.
"As for Ablyazov, the issue related to him is an extraordinary issue related to law enforcement and the court system not only in Kazakhstan, but also in Europe and the United States. Those sorts of issues cannot be discussed on a political level," Vasilenko said. Le Figaro had reported prior to the meeting that Ablyazov would most likely be discussed at the meeting.
Vasilenko added that trials related to Ablyazov will be held soon in the United States, Britain, and France with the participation of Kazakhstan's Justice Ministry, the Almaty mayor's office, and BTA bank.
Ablyazov, a 59-year-old fugitive tycoon, established the opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) and regularly organizes unsanctioned anti-government rallies across Kazakhstan via the Internet. DVK was labelled "extremist" and banned in Kazakhstan in March 2018. Dozens of Kazakh activists have been jailed in Kazakhstan in recent years for their involvement in DVK activities, including taking part in the DVK-organized rallies.
Human rights groups have said Kazakhstan's law on public gatherings contradicts international standards, as it requires official permission in advance to hold rallies and envisions prosecution for organizing and participating in unsanctioned rallies even though the nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of free assembly.