Monthly Archives: March 2012

Victory for Natalia Sokolowa!

Posted by T on March 11, 2012
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The Supreme court of Kazakhstan has decided that Natalia Sokolova’s charges be reduced – she has been released from prison to serve a 3 year conditional sentence with a 2 year police observance, 3 year ban from practicing as a lawyer.

This is clearly due to the huge pressure on the regime, with the EuroParliament almost certain to pass a resolution condemning her arrest next week.

A more detailed article is being prepared.

Kazakhstan dictatorship still turning the screw – Week of solidarity protests 19 – 24 March

Posted by T on March 10, 2012
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The situation in Kazakhstan is still extremely tense. It is not only events a year ago in North Africa that have worried Nazarbayev and his thieving clique; it is now the earthquake taking place in neighbouring Russia, where mass protests have shown Putin to be highly vulnerable. In Kazakhstan, even ‘mild’ oppositionists linked with the ‘OSDP’ (Social Democratic Party) and ‘Alga’ – the two main pro-capitalist, opposition parties – are now being arrested, the former on administrative charges, the latter now facing long prison sentences on criminal charges. 43 oil workers and their supporters are now facing trial for ‘inciting unrest’ in Zhanaozen, on December 16, last year.

Saturday 24 March is the ’100 days’ commemoration of the death of the Zhenaozen martyrs and there are demonstrations planned across Kazakhstan.

Campaign Kazakhstan is asking for maximum international solidarity in the week leading up to that date.

Week of solidarity protests 19 – 24 March

During that week, there will be a number of cases of trumped-up charges against activists being heard in the law courts. Some of the Zhanaozen workers are facing up 6-8 years in prison. Natalia Sokolova, the oil-workers’ representative, is still languishing in jail, due to serve out her six years. Vadim Kuramshin, a lawyer who has campaigned vigorously on the conditions inside prisons and against the torture that is frequently used against prisoners, could himself face face up to 15 years in prison (see article on this site). Several members of the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan, including Ainur Kurmanov and Esenbek Ukteshbayev are still under threat of possibly serious criminal charges.

It should not be forgotten either, that leading members of the pro-capitalist opposition, including Alga party leader Vladimir Kozlov and the editor-in chief of the newspaper “Vzgyad” Igor Vinyavski have also been arrested on serious charges. If the authorities are allowed to get away with their arrest, it will make it easier to act against the rest of the opposition.

A loud and effective campaign is needed to get the charges against all political prisoners dropped. The Campaign Kazakhstan website will carry details of as many cases as possible.

“Stop the persecution of the oil-workers”, “Free all political prisoners in Kazakhstan!”

In this round of protests – under the slogans “Stop the persecution of the oil-workers”, “Free all political prisoners in Kazakhstan!”  we appeal to trade unionists, MPs, lawyers, human rights campaigners and youth to join us on pickets at embassies and outside banks and other concerns linked with the rotten regime of Nazarbayev.

The campaign appeals for additional support from trade unions and other organisations and more sponsors and donors. (There is a resolution for trade union branches on this site, prepared in Britain, that can be used as a basis for similar resolutions in other countries).

Please inform us of plans and progress on these aspects of the campaign.

Please bear in mind that material in different languages can be put on the campaign web-site now, so all material is welcome.

The trial of the arrested oil strikers due to begin in March

Posted by T on March 10, 2012
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43 worker activists are due to stand trial on charges related to the disorder in Zhanaozen in March. This has been announced by the Investigation team in Aktau, West Kazakhstan. Seven of them are to be charged as “organisers of mass disorder”. They include worker activists and leaders of the striking oil workers – they are: Nataliya Azhigalieva, Roza Tuletaeva, Akzhanat Aminov, Talgat Saktaganov, Maksat Dosmagambetov, Aizhangul Amirov and Estai Karashaev. The last two are also activists in the opposition parties Alga and the Social-Democratic Party.

Up to the last minute, the authorities have been hiding the facts. They have refused to reveal the true number of people being investigated. Only recently they informed the “Zhanaozen 2011” Committee investigating the massacre that there were only 29 people being investigated on charges such as “inciting social disorder” and “participating in mass disorder”. It is highly likely that even more will end up appearing in court.

It is also not clear what will happen with the trials of the arrested leaders of the “Alga” party Vladimir Kozlov and Serik Sapargali, and two other Alga activists Bolat Atabaev and Zhanbolat Mamai, who have been ordered not to leave the city. Although the authorities are charging them with inciting the Zhanaozen conflict, Alga had not been directly involved in organizing the planned peaceful protest on 16th December. It seems that they will be put on trial after the strikers, so that the Prosecutor can use any evidence brought up in the first trail to strengthen their case against Kozlov, and indirectly against the founder of Alga, Mukhtar Ablyazov, the oligarch currently on the run from the British courts in France and against Nazarbayev’s “middle” son-in-law Rakhat Aliev, currently in Viennese exile.

In reporting the opening of the trials, the General Prosecutor still could not give an exact answer to questions about the numbers to be charged, instead went on to attack the independent press, particularly Russian correspondents from the “Novaya gazeta” (see article who, he claimed were “liars” building a good business on “the fat facts” from Zhanaozen and spoiling Kazakhstan’s image. In this way the information war between “Ak-Orda” (the President) and state apparatus on the one side and the small independent media with the support of some of the Russian opposition press is only being stepped up. The authorities are now threatening to bring some of the independent journalists to court for spreading “lying rumours” and slander.

This makes it more important for the stepping up of the campaign of solidarity with the arrested oil workers, who have been accused of mass disorder, looting, conducting illegal demonstrations and campaign and of organizing “illegal trade union meetings” as well as “inciting social conflict”. This means that we need to organize demonstrations and protests on the 24th March, the 100 day anniversary of the bloody shooting of the strikers and their relatives in Zhanaozen.

How human rights lawyer Vadim Kuramshin was arrested

Posted by T on March 05, 2012
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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.”

‘The day Zhanaozen died’, by Ainur Kurmanov from ‘Moscow News’

Posted by T on March 02, 2012
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