Rome

Letta orders probe into deporting Kazakh dissident's family

Mukhtar Ablyazov's wife and six-year-old expelled

Letta orders probe into deporting Kazakh dissident's family

Rome, July 5 - Italian Premier Enrico Letta on Friday ordered an internal inquiry into the deportation of the wife and daughter of prominent Kazakh dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov. According to a statement from his office, the review is meant to "reveal any possible critical issues" in the handling of Alma Shalabayeva and her six-year-old daughter. Last month the two were brought to Rome's Ciampino airport and put on a private jet with Kazakh diplomats - something the Italian premier, the foreign minister and the justice minister have denied knowing about until after the fact. Letta's move to review the handling of the case came after MP Alessandro Zan from the left-wing opposition SEL party called on the government Friday "to take all measures possible to guarantee the safety of Shalabayeva and her daughter" now in Kazakhstan, which Human Rights Watch has criticised for its "deteriorating" human rights record. According to family and associates in Italy, police raided a home in Rome last month in search of Ablyazov, a banker linked to a multibillion-euro embezzlement case at his BTA Bank. Ablyazov, who has been a fugitive in Kazakhstan since 2009 and in and out of hiding, was not found in the search, but agents apprehended his wife and daughter instead on charges of residing in the country illegally, which their lawyers denied. Ablyazov, an outspoken critic of autocratic Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, helped found the now defunct Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK), an opposition political movement that campaigned for breaking up the concentration of power in the executive, an independent judiciary, and a strong legislature. Italy's SEL party has also demanded explanations from Angelino Alfano, the interior minister and deputy premier who is also the secretary of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi. Critics have pointed out that during his stints as premier Berlusconi helped foster lucrative commercial ties between Italy and oil-rich Kazakhstan.

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