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Kazakhstan withdraws immunity from the family of its former president

The Kazakh flag in front of the Mazhilis, the country's Lower House of Parliament, in Astana, Kazakhstan, January 13, 2023. REUTERS/Turar Kazangapov
The Kazakh flag in front of the Mazhilis, the country’s Lower House of Parliament, in Astana, Kazakhstan, January 13, 2023. REUTERS/Turar Kazangapov

ASTANA, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Kazakhstan’s parliament on Friday repealed a law granting immediate family members of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev immunity from prosecution, also stripping him of his status as the nation’s leader.

Nazarbayev, 82, led the oil-rich Central Asian country from 1989 to 2019, building a cult following over his three decades at the helm. He initially retained broad powers when he resigned and appointed a close ally, Kassym-Jomart Tokáyev, as his successor.

However, early last year the two politicians appeared to be at odds following violent protests that erupted across the former Soviet republic, which Tokayev described as an attempted coup, during which 238 people were killed in clashes between security forces. and protesters, who seized and burned state buildings in several cities.

Tokayev then took over from Nazarbayev at the head of the powerful Kazakh Security Council and, after the end of the violence, oversaw the dismissal of several family members and affiliates of the former president from senior public sector positions.

Some of them, such as Nazarbayev’s nephew, Kairat Satybaldy, have been arrested and charged with embezzlement of state funds or state-controlled companies.

However, the former president’s closest relatives have so far enjoyed legal immunity, thanks to a law that also gave him the title of Yelbasy, or leader of the nation, and provided him with an allowance and a security detail at state expense. .

Citing the “political transformation” initiated by Tokayev and backed by last year’s constitutional reform, Kazakh lawmakers voted on Friday to repeal the law, a move that will allow the state, for example, to freeze the assets of members of the Nazarbayev family if they are suspected of a crime.

However, Nazarbayev himself will retain the legal immunity granted by the Constitution.

(Reporting by Tamara Vaal; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing in Spanish by Darío Fernández)

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