Rome

Letta vows to get to bottom of Kazakh deportation

Calls rise for interior minister's resignation

Letta vows to get to bottom of Kazakh deportation

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, July 15 - Opposition parties on Monday called for the resignation of Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano over the deportation of the wife and daughter of prominent Kazakh dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov, while the premier assured that justice would soon be served. "Those responsible will have to answer for their mistake," Premier Enrico Letta told the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera. Alma Shalabayeva and her six-year-old girl were taken into custody by police after an overnight blitz in Rome, handed over to Kazakh officials and put on a plane May 31, something cabinet members deny knowing about until after the fact. Handing over relatives of a wanted political dissident to a government with a questionable human-rights record has sparked an outcry, mainly from the left-wing SEL party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), while lucrative energy contracts between the oil-rich country and Italy have led many to question the motive behind the deportations. Sights have centered on Alfano, both for his ministry's role as the head of the national police force and as secretary of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, who midwifed energy deals with Kazakhstan during his stints as premier. "Alfano's resignation would be an act of institutional hygiene," said SEL leader and Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola as his party and the M5S submitted a motion of no-confidence in Alfano to the Lower House and Senate. Alfano, who will answer to parliament on the affair on Thursday, said over the weekend he was uninformed of the incident until the Kazakh nationals had already been deported. He has vowed that "heads will roll" following the conclusion of an internal review ordered by the premier earlier this month. Admitting that mistakes were made, the Italian government on Friday revoked the deportation orders and said the two could return to the country that expelled them. In an 18-page testimony published by the Financial Times, the Kazakh mother said that she and her daughter were taken by "gangster-like" men who were not wearing uniforms, but carried pistols. "A swarm of 30-35 people burst into the house. Another 20 or so people remained outside. But in total around 50 people took part in the attack," she said. "The group continued to shout at me in Italian, I did not understand what specifically he said. The only thing that I could make out in this stream of invective was 'Russo bitch!' I was in shock, I froze and closed my eyes". On Sunday Rome's police denied mistreating the two. Shalabayeva and her daughter were held in Rome's Ponte Galeria immigrant detention center before being taken to Ciampino airport and put on a private jet with Kazakh diplomats. According to family and associates in Italy, police raided the home 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, is an outspoken critic of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan insists Ablyazov is not a dissident but an outlaw. It also says his family is not jailed or under house arrest but is obligated to stay in the former capital of Almaty while his wife is under investigation for allegedly illegally acquiring travel documents - something her layers deny.

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