Oil workers trial in Zhanaozen reveals use of torture and threats to cajole witnesses
The trial of Vadim Kuramshin has again been suspended until 9 May. This follows the application by Vadim’s lawyer to remove Judge Samat Nurkeevich Tolesbai from the case. The judge refused the press the right to use recording devices in the court and also banned Vadim’s lawyer from making an audio-recording of the proceedings. According to procedures, the lawyer’s application should be reviewed independently and in the absence of the judge. But Tolesbai simply ruled the application had been rejected. Insult was added to injury when the judge’s decision was formally read out by the Head Judge of the Regional court, who simply declared that he saw nothing that contradicted the law.
Further breaches followed when it became clear that the Prosecutor in case is also the Head of the Regional Prosecutor’s office. It should be noted that the case against Vadim was initiated when he was attempting to uncover a case of serious corruption in the Regional Prosecutor’s office. But when Vadim’s lawyer asked for the Prosecutor’s replacement by a representative from the City Prosecutor’s office, this was also refused.
The short recess is undoubtedly to allow the judge and prosecution to get their act together to continue with this frame-up trial.
Vadim should be released immediately and all charges dropped. There should be an open and independent inquiry into corruption in the Regional Prosecutor’s Office.
Show trial of oil workers sinks to new depths
Meanwhile, in Zhanaozen city, observers at the trial of 37 oil workers and supporters continue to be astounded by new revelations of torture and threats by the police. A few short excerpts from the trial gives a flavor of what tricks the regime and its police have used in this, already notorious, show trial.
Witness Kozhamberdiev Berden was picked up on a Zhanaozen street while walking with his mother on 27 December, last year and taken to a police station. He testified: “There people in masks asked me what I knew about the events on the 16th December, to which I replied nothing. Then they started to beat me. They asked me if I knew Ermukhanov Ertau. They claimed I had robbed an ATM with him, which I denied. Then the beatings got worse. They put a cellophane packet over my head. Then I got scared. I didn’t know where to go, who to complain to. I signed the statement they put in front of me, accusing Ertau. But when I got out I went straight to his mother’s and told her everything. I know that Ertau was not involved in the strike. I refute all my earlier testaments.”
Another trick used by the prosecution is to present a series of “anonymous” witnesses who use pseudonyms. This is particularly frustrating for the defendants, as Samat Koishibayev commented: “We are not mafia, we are not terrorists. Why do they have to hide the names of witnesses?”
The first of these witnesses, who said his name was “Arman”, was presented as a police officer. He claimed to have seen a number of the defendants on 16 December in Zhanaozen but he was unable to describe how they were clothed. He said that he had seen them looting food from parked lorries but he could not remember how many lorries there were. He stated that he had seen one of the defendants, Aizhan Dyusenbayev, in the central Zhanaozen square at12.30, on 16 December, even though by then, Dyusenbayev was lying wounded in hospital. When it was pointed out that “Arman” had not had to swear to tell the truth, as other witnesses did, the judge merely replied that in such cases, the law “allowed for this!”
On 25 April, a witness, Zhailykhanov Erlan, was called to the stand. He was asked if he had been called to the stand earlier and he said “yes”. On the previous day, Erlan had been called under a pseudonym, “Orazbayev Almaz”, and his testimony was full of contradictions and obvious inaccuracies. For example, he claimed to have seen how defendants had dragged an ATM away by hand but in his written statement, “Orazbayev Almaz” (Erlan) said they had used a lorry. When challenged on his contradictory statements, Erlan said he had been confused by the number of questions.
On Erlan’s second appearance, however, everything fell into place. He related how he had been arrested on the evening of 27 December, 2011. He had been threatened and beaten by the police before being released at 3 in the morning. “I shook all night from fear and cold. I couldn’t get hold of myself. I asked the investigator where I should go – as the city was still under curfew. As I was making my way home, I was again arrested by soldiers. They were in masks and started beating me again. They released me in the morning. The next night they arrested me again. [They] forced me to sign a couple of papers. Then from time to time they came and took me again, threatening me that if I didn’t do what they wanted, they would shut me up. I was afraid to leave my home.”
Erlan stated that he had been lying when giving his first evidence, that he had not been in the square on 16 December and that he had been instructed what to say by the police after they had threatened to cover his head with a plastic bag and suffocate him. He had been very afraid to come to court again, as he had been followed everywhere by the police. Erlan also said that the day before his first court appearance the police turned up at his workplace and threatened him again to ensure he gave the ‘evidence’ they wanted.
The judge, however, refused to reject Erlan’s previous evidence after the prosecution lawyers argued that there was no proof that Zhailikhanov Erlan and “Orazbayev Almaz” is the same person.
This shameful show-trial should be immediately stopped and the defendants released and all charges dropped. Those police responsible for torture and firing on unarmed demonstrators and those higher ranking officers that gave the order to shoot, should be put on trial.