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Yearbook 2008

Kazakhstan. According to Countryaah reports, the state-owned oil and gas company Kazmunaigas increased its ownership in the Kashagan oil field in the Caspian Sea in January. This happened after extended negotiations with the foreign companies that found oil in Kashagan, considered the world's largest field outside the Middle East. Kazakhstan hopes to double its oil recovery by 2015 and become one of the world's ten leading energy producers.

2008 Kazakhstan

President Nursultan Nazarbayev's former son-in-law Rakhat Alijev was sentenced at the beginning of the year in two different trials to twice 20 years in prison. The charges included kidnapping and organized crime, and plans for a coup d'谷tat. Aliyev, who was convicted in his absence, denied the charges which he believed were politically motivated. K. requested him extradition from Austria, which, however, refused the request. Aliyev was married to Nazarbayev's daughter and was one of K's most powerful men when he fell in love with the president.

In February, a court ordered the independent daily newspaper Law and Justice to be closed. As a reason, errors were reported when registering, but according to the newspaper's owner, the reason was reporting on corruption in the judiciary.

Opposition party Nagyz Ak Zhol decided in February to change its name to Azat (Freedom) and at the same time elected Bolat Abilov as leader. It was hoped that the renewal would provide power to challenge the presidential party Nur Otan's power monopoly.

In May, Kazakhstan became the target of the new Russian president Medvedev's first trip abroad. Kazakhstan had in the spring concluded an agreement with Azerbaijan on oil deliveries west to Europe, but Medvedev urged Nazarbayev's regime to continue exporting most of its oil through Russian pipelines.

After the Georgia war in August, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to Kazakhstan in an attempt to strengthen the US position in the region. K. seemed to want to balance the East-West relations, and in November the Kazakh Parliament decided to ease restrictions on US and NATO flights to Afghanistan. It also opened for the possibility of a supply line of land from the Caspian Sea through K. to Afghanistan. K. also sought to strengthen ties with the EU by promising democratization ahead of K's forthcoming OSCE presidency in 2010.

Both the grain harvest and the cotton harvest decreased during the year, partly due to water shortages. In southern K., a giant pond was planned for irrigation, which is expected to hold over two billion cubic meters when completed in 2012.

In November, Parliament passed a law with several restrictions on religious freedom. Among other things, individuals were forbidden to share their faith unless they have written permission from a registered religious organization and are state registered as missionaries.

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