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Kazakh Court Convicts 10 for Opposition Leader's Murder

A court in Kazakhstan has convicted ten people, including a former political official, for the murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev.

The chief judge Thursday sentenced the former head of the Senate administration, Erzhan Utembayev, to 20 years in prison for ordering the killing earlier this year. The prosecution said Utembayev planned the murder because of a personal dispute about newspaper articles Sarsenbayev had written.

The court ordered the death penalty for former police officer Rustam Ibragimov for actually carrying out the murder. However, his sentence will be automatically commuted to life imprisonment because Kazakhstan has a moratorium on capital punishment.

The other eight defendants face prison terms ranging from three to 20 years.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty, and some critics have condemned the trial as biased.

Sarsenbayev was abducted and killed along with his bodyguards and a driver, and their bullet-riddled bodies were found February 13 near Almaty.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.