Kazakhstan jails China expert for 10 years for treason

A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced a China expert to 10 years in prison for treason, the national security committee said on Thursday.

Konstantin Syroezhkin, 63, was an employee of the state-run Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies when his detention was reported earlier this year.

Although the national security committee, the KNB, did not say whom Syroezhkin was accused of spying for, rights activists citing law enforcement sources said his work with China was the focus of the case.

Galym Ageleuov, a well-known rights defender and acquaintance of Syroezhkin’s, said the academic had pleaded not guilty in court but would not be appealing the sentence.

“Our authorities accused him of spying on behalf of China. He refutes this accusation,” Ageleuov told AFP.

He said the academic understood that “the KNB can easily pressure the court.”

“He understood that his punishment was a command from the top,” Ageleuov added.

In May, dozens of academics signed an open letter to Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev asking him to ensure transparency in the case.

Syroezhkin reportedly served as advisor to Tokayev for a dissertation that the career diplomat and Chinese speaker who became president this year defended in Moscow in 2001.

Neighbouring China is a key economic partner for Kazakhstan which has described itself as the “buckle” in Beijing‘s trillion-dollar Belt and Road trade and infrastructure project.

But hundreds of Kazakhs have taken to the streets in recent months to voice fears over Chinese investment in the oil-rich country.

The alleged mass detentions of ethnic Kazakhs in Beijing‘s troubled Xinjiang region have also sparked public anger.

Tokayev, 66, became president after the shock resignation in March of long-ruling leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who spent three decades in the post and is still viewed as Kazakhstan’s top decision-maker.

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