World Bulletin / News Desk
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.
Nazarbayev, 72, has run Central Asia's most successful economy and largest oil producer for more than two decades, but has tolerated little dissent as he has pursued market reforms and attracted more than $150 billion in foreign investment.
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, a 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.
Suindikov said prosecutors in Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, had asked a court to ban the two movements as well as the media outlets.
KAZAKHSTAN'S BIN LADEN?
Suindikov said prosecutors were seeking the closure of eight newspapers and 23 Internet sites that operated under the umbrella of the Respublika publisher, as well as the Vzglyad newspaper and its Internet sites.
Kazakhstan's marginalised opposition enjoys little support among voters. The country has never held an election that Western monitors have deemed fair, but Nazarbayev is popular in the country of 17 million for presiding over relative stability.
Oksana Makushina, deputy editor-in-chief of the Golos Respubliki newspaper - part of the Respublika group - said her publication would try to get round any court order.
"They may close the paper in legal form, but given the presence of the Internet, it is hard to do so in reality," she told Reuters. "We will continue fighting, unless we are put in a prison cell next to Kozlov."
Mikhail Sizov, another leader of the Alga! party, said he believed Kozlov's imprisonment for his part in the Zhanaozen riots was the beginning of a wider campaign to destroy the entire opposition movement in Kazakhstan.
"There is virtually an undeclared war going on between Mukhtar Ablyazov and Nursultan Nazarbayev," Sizov told Reuters.
The satellite TV channel K+ and the Internet portals run by Stan TV are among the media outlets targeted by prosecutors. State TV ran a documentary this week that identified Ablyazov as the financial backer of both channels.
Baurzhan Musirov, director of Almaty-based Stan Productions, which runs the Stan.KZ portal, denied it was financed by Ablyazov.
Ablyazov has been on the run since February, when he was sentenced to 22 months in prison for contempt of court in Britain, where he had earlier received political asylum. His whereabouts are unknown.
A theoretical physics graduate who built a fortune by snapping up banking and media assets in the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed, Ablyazov has said he fell out with Nazarbayev after campaigning for a change of government.
He has failed to appear in a vast fraud case being heard in Britain, where his former bank, state-owned BTA, has brought nine charges against Ablyazov and his allies. In the same case, BTA has frozen assets worth around $6 billion.
Kazakh political analyst Aidos Sarym said he believed the current campaign against the opposition was aimed at presenting Ablyazov as a "home-grown Bin Laden" or Kazakh version of the late al Qaeda leader.
Fighters from the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi movement seized Sanaa on Sept. 21 after overrunning an army brigade affiliated to the moderate Islamist Islah party, making them effectively the power brokers in the country.
A spokesman for Congo's government said an investigation had been launched into the situation but health problems that people face across Congo, rather than poor management at the camp, were most likely to be the cause of the deaths.
Bernadino Leon, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, said a second step would be to seek talks with the militias that now run the desert nation.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the step would also send a "troubling message" if the Israeli government proceeded with tenders and construction.
The Army gave no reason for the decision to drop the charges against Sergeant First Class Michael Barbera.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing had "very formally and clearly stated its position: Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs. All countries should respect China's sovereignty."
U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson steps down after an incident in which an Iraq war veteran with a knife scaled the White House fence, sprinted across the lawn and got deep inside the mansion before an off-duty agent stopped him.
Two blasts killed at least 45 people, including 41 children, in the Syrian city of Homs.
The Israeli authorities announced a decision early last month to confiscate 4,000 dunams of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
Transport minister Damir Hadzic described the move as a 'historic event'.
Kenyan anti-terrorism police arrested the two on suspicion of plotting an attack in Kenya as they prepared to board a flight at Nairobi aiport on Sept. 18 bound for Belgium.
Egypt-Turkey relations have nosedived since Egypt's military ousted elected president Mohamed Morsi in July of last year.
New Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani re-opened an inquiry into the theft of almost $1 billion from Kabul Bank with a decree.
Nine other people were wounded, seven of whom were taken to hospital for treatment.
Putin said Russia security services had detected a constant growth in cyber attacks, particularly in the last six months, the period in which the crisis in Ukraine has worsened.
Turkish Cypriot students attending an English school in the Greek Cypriot-controlled south Cyprus are told they cannot have time off for Eid as it is a 'Chrstian school'.