French Prime Minister signs extradition decree to send Kazakh dissident to Russia

  • 12.10.2015
  • Author: Editorial office
  • Extradition decree means France is whitewashing Putin’s legal system,
  • Family expresses shock and profound disappointment that despite evidence to contrary, France is pretending Russia will provide fair trial and not transfer dissident to Kazakhstan 
  • Ablyazov to appeal at france’s conseil d’etat for annulment of decree
  • In two years since Ablyazov’s arrest, nine other european countries have refused extraditions or have granted asylum to Ablyazov’s associates and family members
  • All major NGOs have been unanimous in calling on French government not to extradite Ablyazov because his life would be at risk

Paris, October 12, 2015 — French Prime Minister Manuel Valls signed a decree on September 17, ordering the extradition to Russia of Kazakh dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov. The unpublished decree, issued upon the advice of French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, was delivered to Ablyazov last week at the Fleury-Mérogis detention facility near Paris.

The decree in the closely watched case is a stunning vote of confidence from France that Russia can be trusted to give a fair trial to Ablyazov, that he risks no torture and that he will not be illegally sent on to Kazakhstan. 

France’s decision to extradite to Russia flies in the face of masses of European judicial decisions, and the official positions of all major international governmental and non-governmental organizations, which have recognized the profoundly corrupt nature of the Russian legal system.

Ablyazov is appealing against the decree at the Conseil d’Etat, France’s supreme administrative court. This appeal will impede his extradition from taking place. Ablyazov may also subsequently appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to stop his extradition.

Ablyazov’s daughter, Madina Ablyazova, was devastated when she learned of the decree. She stated: “Our family is shocked and profoundly disappointed that France, a country that says it defends human rights, would send my father into the jails of Vladimir Putin. My father has fought all his life against corruption and in favor of political and economic reforms in his country. The Russian charges are completely bogus. Russia has no jurisdiction over my father, and Russia itself stated he did not cause any harm to the Russian state or any entities or individuals in Russia. The charges against him were fabricated by Kazakhstan, and France is capable of verifying this conclusively. To suggest my father can get a fair trial in Russia is an enormous lie. Why does France want to help autocrats like Putin and Nazarbayev?”

Ablyazov family lawyer Peter Sahlas stated: “The French justice system is being abused and manipulated by corrupt foreign regimes and yet France has chosen to go along with them.” Referring to France’s recent cancellation of its sale of Mistral warships to Russia, he further stated, “Yesterday Paris did not trust Moscow to respect international law, and suddenly France sees no problem sending a dissident to be destroyed by the dysfunctional Russian legal system?”

According to the lawyer, Ablyazov considered the decree to be “a betrayal of French values and a disservice to current and future victims of Russian injustice.” Had the French government refused to issue the decree, Russia would have been pressured to bring its legal system up to minimal international standards. 

The French extradition decree specifically states that it follows a detention order issued by Moscow judge Aleksey Krivoruchko. As repeatedly pointed out by Ablyazov’s lawyers and numerous NGOs and experts, Krivoruchko has been blacklisted from entry to the United States and he is subject to an asset freeze there due to his complicity in the torture and death of whistleblowing anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Krivoruchko is also notorious for ordering the arrest of blogger Aleksey Navalny and for involvement in other politically tainted cases in Russia.

In 2013, Russia and Ukraine both sought Ablyazov’s extradition from France at Kazakhstan’s prodding, since the central Asian dictatorship lacks legal mechanisms to request the longtime dissident’s extradition directly. The French justice system and government ultimately decided to favor Moscow’s extradition request over Kiev’s.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ACAT and FIDH have all issued appeals to the French government not to extradite Ablyazov. In the two years since Ablyazov was arrested in France, nine European countries – Belgium, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Lithuania – have either refused extraditions or granted asylum or similar protection to ten of Ablyazov’s co-accused business associates, political allies or family members. In addition to this consensus in Europe, the United States granted asylum to Ablyazov’s sister.

BACKGROUND

Mukhtar Ablyazov has dedicated his life to opposing the regime of Nursultan Nazarbayev since resigning in 1999 as Kazakhstan’s Minister of Energy, Industry and Trade. Ablyazov was jailed in Kazakhstan after co-founding the leading democratic opposition party there in 2001. While in prison from 2002 to 2003 he was tortured and had most of his wealth unlawfully expropriated. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Parliament, the OSCE, and the US State Department denounced the charges against Ablyazov as politically motivated and his trial as unfair. Following international pressures and an agreement under duress that he would refrain from political activism, Ablyazov was freed in 2003. 

Ablyazov left his native Kazakhstan for the United Kingdom in 2009, as the bank he largely owned and had built into an international success story was being illegally seized and destroyed by the Nazarbayev regime. Russia and Ukraine opened criminal cases against Ablyazov at the request of Kazakhstan, a central Asian dictatorship that lacks extradition arrangements with most European countries. Since 2009, the Kazakh regime has deployed a massive international legal and PR campaign against Ablyazov, who from abroad continued to be a thorn in the regime’s side, denouncing corruption and calling for economic and political reforms, human rights and press freedoms.

When he was living in the United Kingdom from 2009 to 2012, the British authorities refused INTERPOL requests from Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine to arrest Ablyazov. Ablyazov was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom in 2011. In February 2012, Ablyazov left the United Kingdom and went into hiding after being warned by the London Metropolitan Police that his life was in danger. In July 2013, after private detectives located Ablyazov in the south of France, lawyers serving the interests of the Nazarbayev regime asked French prosecutor Solange Legras to arrest him. Following the request of Kazakhstan’s lawyers, Legras had Ablyazov arrested on July 31, 2013, and he has been in detention in France ever since.

A court in Aix-en-Provence issued initial decisions in favor of Ablyazov’s extradition on January 9, 2014, after proceedings that were marred by severe irregularities. On April 9, 2014, the Cassation Court annulled the initial decisions taken by the Aix-en-Provence court, and sent Ablyazov’s case to Lyon to be heard anew.

The Lyon court held a one-day hearing for each extradition request:  the Ukrainian request was dealt with on September 25, 2014 and the Russian request was dealt with on October 17, 2014. The Lyon hearings were highly controversial. The court refused to hear a word from defense witnesses, including Garry Kasparov, Lev Ponomarev, Mark Feygin and others. The French prosecutor in Lyon stated that Russia and Ukraine could be trusted to give Ablyazov a fair trial, treat him humanely and not re-extradite him to Kazakhstan. The French prosecutor also brushed aside the fact that no less than seven people from the Magnitsky List were involved in fabricating the Ablyazov case in Russia, including judge Aleksey Krivoruchko, lead investigator Nikolai Budilo and Deputy Prosecutor General Victor Grin. Krivoruchko, Budilo and Grin were key Russian officials behind the extradition request sent to France. Krivoruchko and Grin are in fact banned from entry to the United States. Yet these facts did not lead the Lyon court to question the credibility of Russia’s case against Ablyazov. The court also ignored substantial evidence that Ukraine had fabricated its case against Ablyazov at the behest of Kazakhstan. 

The Lyon court stubbornly insisted that it was responsible only for verifying that basic formalities were complied with in the Russian and Ukrainian extradition requests. The court refused to delve into the deeply political context and corruption underlying the legal assaults by Astana, Moscow and Kiev against Ablyazov, passing responsibility to the French government to assess these matters as well as the real risks that Ablyazov might face if extradited. The Lyon court considered the signatures by Russia (in 1996) and Ukraine (in 1995) of the European Convention on Human Rights provided sufficient assurance that Ablyazov would have a fair trial and not be tortured, irrespective of two subsequent decades of condemnations of both countries by the European Court of Human Rights. On October 24, 2014, the Lyon court issued non-binding decisions in favor of Ablyazov’s extradition to Russia or Ukraine.

On March 4, 2015, France’s Cassation Court, which has a limited remit in reviewing extradition cases, found no procedural errors in the Lyon court’s decisions. 

The French government then had to decide whether or not to issue a decree. Upon the advice of French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, on September 17, 2015, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls signed a decree ordering Ablyazov’s extradition to Russia.

Source: press-release of Ablyazov's lawyers

More on this topic: Ablyazov, Kazachstan, extradition, Russia, France, Valls