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How human rights lawyer Vadim Kuramshin was arrested

Everyone must be told the real story!
by Ainur Kurmanov

Kazakhstan human rights lawyer, Vadim Kuramshin, is well known for his defence of victims of torture, of those serving sentences in prison and suffering beatings and extortion at the hands of prison and penal colony warders and for his investigations into the murder of awkward prisoners. He recently forced the ruling party ‘Nur Otan’ to agree to introduce a national procedure aimed at countering the use of torture. Unfortunately, he is unable to implement these plans since he has himself now been arrested.

Vadim Kuramshin has been accused of the large scale extortion of money from an employee of the prosecutor in the Kordai area near the border with Kazakhstan! Colleagues of the human rights activist believe the accusation is absurd. They are convinced that the prosecution was initiated by the special intelligence service in order to put him out of action for many years. The crime Vadim is accused of is categorised as very serious, and he could be locked away for between seven and fifteen years if convicted.

The criminal investigations body is accusing Vadim of extorting money from the prosecutor’s assistant and blackmailing him with a compromising video. And this is absurd! Firstly, the video in question was, by that time, already freely available on the Internet. Secondly, Vadim was aiming to reveal cases of corruption in the prosecutor’s office, and was preparing a press conference.

Vadim Kuramshin learned of corruption in the Kordai prosecutor’s office in early 2012. He was contacted by the lawyer, Karibai Kusainov, whom he had met several years before, when himself serving a sentence on a framed up charge of ‘libel’ after he had unveiled corruption in Northern Kazakhstan.

Kusainov had turned to the Vadim for help to bring to account an employee of the Kordai prosecutor’s office. As the representative of Anna Kuzmina, a small businesswoman from Kokshetau, he explained that in November her vehicle and the goods in it were illegally seized by the prosecutor’s office, who had demanded a money for the release of the contents. Kusainov personally handed over a bribe and filmed the transfer on his mobile phone. Vadim Kuramshin decided to publish the video, showing the corruption, and produced a video clip to make it publicly known what was going on. The video included the commentary of Vadim himself and of Kariba Kusainov, who says that he personally gave the bribe to the prosecutor’s assistant and that the video of the money changing hands was taken by him.

The press conference was organised, on the eve of which the video was circulated on the Internet, and to get a full picture, Vadim Kuramshin organised a meeting with the prosecutor of the Kordai area in order to learn the fate of the statements previously filed against the prosecutor’s assistant.

On January 23, when they arrived in Kordai, Karibai Kusainov persuaded Vadim that they should try and get the money back. Vadim agreed and when he met the Assistant prosecutor, Mukhtar Uderbaev, proposed he return the money. Mukhtar Uderbaev immediately agreed without a second thought, and asked Vadim to return a bit later. After an hour and a half, Vadim returned to see Uderbaev, and was then promptly arrested by an officer of the Zhambyl regional ‘Office for Combating Organised Crime’!

Of course, if Vadim had intended to extort money, he would not have officially registered his visit to the prosecutor. Moreover, a special operation to arrest an extortionist demands careful preparation. To begin with, there must be evidence that money is being extorted from someone. Then marked banknotes need to be prepared and special equipment, a hidden video camera, prepared. And the most important thing! For the police involved to travel the several hundred kilometers from Taraz, the regional capital to the village of Kordai, was physically impossible in an hour and a half.

All this suggests that the operation had been carefully prepared, and they were already lying in wait for the human rights activist. And a not insignificant role in the staging of this sting was played by the lawyer, Karibai Kusainov, who now, in his testimony, says that he never gave a bribe to anyone. He was not even embarrassed that his complaints to Vadim about being forced to pay a bribe, were in front of witnesses, and that a video with his story was all over the Internet. Naturally, the investigator is trying to play down the significance of this video, with which Vadim Kuramshin is supposed to have blackmailed the prosecutor’s assistant!

The human rights activist was detained on January 23. The decision to initiate criminal proceedings against Vadim under Article 181 (part 4, paragraph “b”) was made that day by the Senior Police Investigator in charge of the case Captain Lachin Aliyev. Vadim was taken to the police station detention centre. The next day, January 24, he was formally charged and the Kordai regional court sanctioned his detention for two months. Vadim was not allowed a defence lawyer!

Incidentally, there is another interesting moment demonstrating that this was a set up organized by the KNB – Committee for National Security. Last October Vadim said in his blog that he had been warned about such a provocation. Gulya Askeltirova from Astana, whose husband was serving a long term prison sentence in the Karaganda region was approached by the KNB, who proposed that she help to set Vadim up. She was asked to give the human rights defender a large sum of money apparently in return for solving the problems she had following her husband’s conviction. According to Gulya, the KNBers just said: “Your job is to just stick the money in his hands; the rest we do ourselves.”