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.
The men were arrested during a police raid which saw 24 individuals arrested earlier this month after they were accused of plotting to take over St Mark’s Square in Venice.
The Customs Union, led by Russia, already has Belarus and Kazakhstan as official members. Armenia looks set to also sgn up while Kyrgyzstan has also shown interest.
Its presence was noteworthy as the United States and Iran have been at loggerheads for decades and Iran is subject to certain economic sanctions.
Kazakhstan and Ukraine both agreed to become non-nuclear states in return for the recognition of their independence by Russia and the West following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Murtala Nyako, the governor of Adamawa State, claimed that most of the violence in the northeast region is being committed by "militias" and soldiers engaged by the central government, not by Boko Haram militants.
Sacred Family Foundation is enjoying a popularity boost due to Berlusconi's future community service.
Another strong earthquake hits Solomon islands in the Pacific Ocean.
East Turkestan, otherwise known as China's Xinjiang province, has seen increasing crackdowns on its native Uighur Muslim community as of late.
Ukraine's government, short of effective forces, has shown little sign of trying to recapture the dozen or so town halls, police stations and other sites seized over the past two weeks, despite proclaiming the launch of an "anti-terrorist operation".
Speaking at a press conference in western Cairo on Saturday, Mortada Mansour said that he would throw his weight behind former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's bid to run for Egypt's president.
Former head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Mustafa Jemilev, who is now a Ukrainian lawmaker based in Kiev, feared that he would not be allowed to enter Crimea after Russia produced a blacklist of individuals barred from the peninsula.
The Interior Ministry said on its Twitter account the explosion was in the village of al-Maqshaa', along the Budayya highway, outside of the capital Manama.
The violence was triggered by a dispute between two motorists – a Muslim and a Christian – over who should pass first in Al-Khusus, a city within the northern Qalioubiya province.
"The government [of North Sudan] has a lot of blood on its hands," Jehanne Henry, HRW's representative in South and North Sudan said.
James Mitchell, a retired air force psychologist, was the mastermind behind the program which used methods amounting to torture to extract information from suspected terrorists, including water-boarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, who attended a ceremony on Yonaguni island to mark the start of construction, suggested the military presence could be enlarged to other islands in the seas southwest of Japan's main islands.