Kazakhstan president is given lifetime immunity

Lawmakers approved amendments to the constitution giving President Nursultan Nazarbayev lifetime immunity from prosecution for acts committed during his rule, and the right to approve important national and foreign policies after he retires.

Under changes approved by the Senate yesterday, Mr Nazarbayev, 69, will be designated "leader of the nation" even after he leaves office. He must rubber-stamp the change himself before it can take effect.

Supporters of the amendment pointed to the President's achievements in building the Kazakh state, likening him to George Washington, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk or Mahatma Gandhi. Mr Nazarbayev has ruled the energy-rich Central Asian state since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, before which he was its top Communist Party official.

Other measures passed by the Senate will make it an offence to deface images of Mr Nazarbayev.