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Kazakh dissident's wife returns to Italy

Thanks 'brave' Bonino, says 'feared for daughter's life'

27 December, 17:29
Kazakh dissident's wife returns to Italy (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, December 27 - Alma Shalabayeva, the wife of Kazakh oligarch and political dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov, returned to Italy on Friday six months after being expelled in a controversial operation.

Shalabayeva told a press conference she had been afraid her young daughter might be killed during their time back in Kazakhstan.

"I feared for my daughter's life," she said.

The oligarch's wife was moved to tears of happiness upon her return.

"I want to thank (Italian Foreign Minister) Emma Bonino, the foreign ministry and the media for having handled my case and enabled me to return to Italy," Shalabayeva said before leaving Rome's Fiumicino airport.

"I'm very happy to be in Italy. Thank you everyone". Shalabayeva and her young child Alua were deported on a private jet to Kazakhstan after they were seized in May in a raid on a villa in Rome by Italian police following pressure from Kazakh officials, causing a major international scandal. Italy repealed her expulsion order after it emerged Shalabayeva had the legal right to reside here. The woman, who made the comments at a press conference in Rome, called Bonino a "brave" person for her successful efforts to secure her return. "Bonino is a brave person who has helped me in this situation," Shalabayeva said. Shalabayeva was able to leave Kazakhstan after the authorities in Astana this week lifted restrictions on her movements, following strenuous lobbying from Bonino. She landed in Rome with daughter Alua. Her two older children, Madina and Aldyiar, were waiting for them. The mother also thanked the students and parents of students of the Rome school her daughter had been attending prior to their deportation for "having sent me video-messages that made me cry".

Her husband Mukhtar Ablyazov was detained July 31 in the south of France at the request of Ukraine and is also wanted by Russia.

Authorities in Aix-en-Provence were reported to be weighing extradition "favourably" Friday. In Kazakhstan he has been charged with alleged embezzlement of over $6 billion from the BTA Bank and other alleged financial frauds. He is facing a 13-year-long term and confiscation of property.

His wife said Friday the Astana authorities released her to appear "more civilised" and increase their chances of securing his extradition.

Bonino told reporters: "I was happy to share with Mrs Shalabayeva and her children the joy of being back here in Rome".

"At the start of June it really seemed impossible to achieve this result, but we were able to do so thanks to the determined and constant action of the government and the parliamentary forces," said Bonino.

Shalabayeva's lawyer told ANSA she would stay in Italy for a spell.

"Her decision to stay in Italy is recognition of the great merits of Minister Bonino," said the lawyer, Anna D'Alessandro.

"It's recognition for a country that, after an illegitimate expulsion, worked to restore enforcement of the law".

The lawyer said her client would probably leave Italy after an unspecified time here. She did not say where to, but she did point out that Shalabayeva has family in Switzerland.