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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 August 2006, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Ten convicted over Kazakh murder
Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly
Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly was found shot dead on a roadside
A controversial murder trial in Kazakhstan has ended with all 10 defendants found guilty.

They were on trial over the killing of the prominent opposition politician Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly.

He was kidnapped and found dead with his driver and his bodyguard in February. They had all been shot.

Relatives and colleagues of the victim dismissed the trial as a whitewash and said the authorities were shielding the real culprits.

The main defendant, former police officer Rustam Ibragimov, received the death penalty - commuted to life in prison - for murdering Mr Sarsenbaiuly.

A senior civil servant, Erzhan Utembayev, was given 20 years for ordering the murder.

The other eight defendants were given sentences of between three and 20 years.

Coup plot allegation

Prosecutors said Mr Sarsenbaiuly had been killed because of a grudge over an article he published in the media attacking Mr Utembayev, the Senate administrative chief.

Mr Utembayev and Mr Ibragimov both pleaded not guilty.

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During the trial Mr Ibragimov alleged that the kidnapping had been ordered by senior officials and was part of a coup plot against President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Relatives and opposition supporters of the murdered politician say the murder was politically motivated and have accused the Kazakh intelligence services, the National Security Committee (NSC), of being behind the crime.

Mr Sarsenbaiuly was the second opposition leader to be found dead in a matter of months.

The brutal manner of the killing shocked the oil-rich country which has had a reputation for stability in an unstable region.


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