Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 16:10 UK

Kazakh activist appeal rejected

Tuesday's appeals court, in the Kazakh town of Taldykorgan
The small courtroom was packed for the judge's verdict

A court in Kazakhstan has rejected an appeal by a prominent human rights activist who was jailed for manslaughter in September.

Lawyers for Yevgeny Zhovtis appealed against the four-year sentence, saying the original trial was unfair.

The international community has also expressed concern that Zhovtis did not receive a fair trial.

The case has been viewed as a test for Kazakhstan as it prepares to assume chairmanship of the OSCE next year.

Critics have questioned Kazakhstan's suitability for the post, saying it does not meet adequate standards on rights and democracy.

Zhovtis was not present in the courtroom, but a number of foreign diplomats and representatives of international organisations turned up to watch the proceedings.

Car accident

According to the BBC's Central Asia correspondent, Rayhan Demytrie, who was at the appeal court, Yevgeny Zhovtis is the most prominent human rights defender in the country.

 poster of Yevgeniy Zhovtis which reads 'yes to justice, no to corrupt courts'
Yevgeniy Zhovtis was given a four-year jail term

He was jailed last month for manslaughter, following a car accident in which a man died.

The incident happened on a dark country road in the summer, and Zhovtis claimed he was not criminally responsible for the killing.

His initial two-day trial was monitored and later criticised both by the US and the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe).

Tuesday's appeals court, in the Kazakh town of Taldykorgan, decided that the ruling should remain unchanged.

Rachel Denver, a spokeswoman for the campaign group Human Rights Watch, said the fact that the appeal had been rejected was "very disappointing".

"I think it's a real blow to the rule of law in Kazakhstan, that Zhovtis was not given a possibility to mount a defence," she said.

In the last six months the Kazakh government has been criticised for clamping down on independent media, adopting a new internet law that limits free speech.

The ruling party has also voiced proposals to make the incumbent Nursultan Nazarbayev president for life.

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