Kazakhstan's financial police have launched a criminal investigation against the printer of an opposition newspaper critical of the authorities.



Kazakhstan will next year chair Europe's main security and rights body, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, but has come under fire in recent months from human rights groups and the OSCE itself for cracking down on government critics.


A spokesman for the financial police, Murat Zhumanbai, said a criminal probe had been started against the director of the "Kometa S" print house, which had published the Respublika weekly, for misreporting earnings statements.


Respublika had an entire print run seized last month after it failed to pay state-run bank BTA damages in a court case and the OSCE says the authorities are trying to destroy the opposition paper.


Sergei Utkin, a lawyer for Kometa S, said the printer's director Yulia Kozlova denied the charges.


"We will challenge... the actions of the financial police and the launch of the criminal probe. We have already filed a lawsuit," he said.


"We think all of this has been done to stop Respublika from being printed and to justify shutting down the print house for over a month," he said. (Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Additional reporting by Olga Orininskaya in Almaty; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)