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Kazakh dissident's family may return to Italy

'Guarantees from Rome needed'

23 July, 18:14
Kazakh dissident's family may return to Italy (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Rome, July 23 - The Kazakh government said Tuesday the wife and daughter of a political opposition figure seized in Rome and repatriated to Kazakhstan in late May could return to Italy given financial and other guarantees. In response to a series of questions daily newspaper Corriere della Sera put to Kazakh Premier Serik Akhmetov regarding the expulsion of Alma Shalabayeva, wife of Kazakh oligarch and touted dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov, and their six-year-old daughter, the Kazakh foreign ministry delivered answers saying "a deposit" and "guarantees from Rome" would be needed for Shalabayeva's return. Shalabayeva and her daughter were rushed onto a private jet with Kazakh diplomats and flown back to a country whose human-rights record has been questioned by several organisations. Italy has since repealed her expulsion order, but the Kazakh government has said Shalabayeva is under investigation regarding possible bribes paid to immigration and justice officials to create false passports for herself and her daughter. "From a legal point of view, one cannot exclude the possibility of the return of Alma Shalabayeva and her daughter in Italy. For this, the woman must appeal to the competent Kazakh entity with a request for free movement abroad, backed by a deposit. In this (particular) case, the Republic of Kazakhstan would also require guarantees from Rome (that she would be repatriated again in case of criminal trial)," the ministry said. "With the July 4 sentence, the guilty were condemned" and thus Shalabayeva was temporarily placed under movement restrictions. "She is completely free to move in the city of Almaty and to communicate with whom she wants," the statement went on. "She is absolutely not placed under torture, or cruel, inhuman, humiliating treatment, or punishment".

As for the investigation, "more time is needed to have answers to international requests", it said.

Italy's foreign minister said on Monday there "were still some dark areas" in the deportation case, suggesting resolution in the embarrassing affair is still far off for Italy's fragile and divided left-right administration. "Other offices need to shed light on them," added Emma Bonino as she entered a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

The Italian Senate on Friday rejected a no-confidence motion in Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano over the expulsion of Shalabayeva and her daughter. Alfano's chief of staff at the interior ministry resigned over the scandal last week. Premier Enrico Letta's government would have been in peril if Alfano had failed to pass the confidence test. Before the vote, Letta called on Senators to reject the motion, saying it was "clear" Alfano had nothing to do with the expulsion following the results of an internal investigation. He argued that rejecting the motion was a vote of confidence in his executive, which is based on an unprecedented alliance between his centre-left Democratic Party, the biggest group in parliament, and their long-standing bitter rivals in the PdL. Letta told the Senate that his government was not underestimating the importance of the case, saying it was a cause for "embarrassment and disrepute" for Italy. But he stressed that no one in the higher levels of government knew about the deportation until after it took place and stressed that the administration had behaved with "total transparency". Extra attention has centered around Alfano because he is also the secretary of the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of Silvio Berlusconi, who during his stints as premier helped foster lucrative commercial ties between Italy and energy-rich Kazakhstan.

Sights have also landed on Foreign Minister Emma Bonino for not intervening sooner. On Tuesday sources at the foreign ministry said she "had never considered resigning" over the case despite calls from the opposition to do so.