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French court to decide on freeing Kazakh dissident banker Ablyazov

Mukhtar Ablyazov's daughter Madina (L), her husband Elias (2ndL) and lawyer Bruno Rebstock at a hearing in August
Mukhtar Ablyazov's daughter Madina (L), her husband Elias (2ndL) and lawyer Bruno Rebstock at a hearing in August Reuters/Guillaume Horcajuelo

A French judge was set to rule on whether to release a Kazakh banker from jail on Thursday ahead of an extradition hearing in September. Russia has asked for Mukhtar Ablyazov's extradition and Ukraine is likely to do so but he claims that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev is behind the requests.

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Ablyazov has been in detention since 31 July when he was arrested at his home near Cannes, on the French riviera.

He is accused of embezzling up to 4.5 billion euros from the Kazakh bank BTA, which he ran until 2009 when it was nationalised, but he claims the accusation is politically motivated.

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Kazhakstan, along with Russia and Ukraine, where BTA has subsidiaries, brought fraud charges against him in 2009.

Ablyazov, who founded a pro-reform party in 2001, says Nazarbayev masterminded the legal case against him in an attempt to silence a political opponent.

He left Kazhakstan in 2011 and was granted political asylum in Britain.

BTA brought fraud charges against him there, and he went into hiding just before the court decision, which ws to sentence him to 22 months in jail for contempt of court.

France has no extradition treaty with Kazakhstan.

On Wednesday Russia formally asked for his extradition and Ukraine has until 10 September to do so.

A French prosecutor says France is likely to consider Ukraine’s request because the Russian agreement is problematic.

Ablyazov's lawyers say that Ukraine would hand their client over to the Kazakh authorities and that his life would be in danger there and some iInternational rights groups agree.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the judge was set to rule on whether to let Ablyazov out of jail, with an ankle monitor, ahead of September's extradition hearing.

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