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Kazakhstan: financial police persecuting civil activists, aiming to subdue Almaty democratic rally

Over recent days, dozens of civil activists from various regions of Kazakhstan were summoned for interrogations by financial police with relation to a criminal case against the oppositionist Mukhtar Ablyazov. Activists are threatened with legal liability should they choose to engage in a democratic forces rally in Almaty.

Over the period of 2nd to 5th July 2013, local departments concerned with  fighting economic and corruption crimes (hereinafter referred to as „financial police”) sent a summons to activists from various regions of Kazakhstan: journalist of “Azattyk” radio from Atyrau Saniya Toyken, human rights activist Assel Nurgaziyeva,human rights and civil activist from Kokshetau Tulegen Kasenov, leader of Atyrau-based “Arlan” NGO Maks Bokaev, president of “Aksakaly” public association from Kokshetau Viktor Novikov as well as other civil activists from the regions. It is notable that Maks Bokaev, Assel Nurgaziyeva and Viktor Novikov were forced to attend the interrogations twice, and Tulegen Kasenov – three times.

Financial police summoned the civil and human rights activists to testify as witnesses in the criminal case against the former president of the board of directors of BTA Bank, Mukhtar Ablyazov, as well as the former management of the bank.However, in the majority of cases there was no indication that the activists were being summoned in the capacity of witnesses, which is in direct contradiction to section 2 paragraph 211 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan. (Cr.P.C of RoK). An example of one of the summons can be found in the attachment: download attachment. As the human rights activist Yevgeniy Zhovtis remarks, «summons not containing the information required does not, in fact, constitute a procedural document». What is more, on 2nd July 2013 the Kokshenau civil activist Tulegen Kasenov was delivered to the financial police department by its officers without having been served with any summons whatsoever. Certain civil activists were made to sign a non-disclosure statement, resulting in liability for divulgence of information on interrogations conducted. Human rights activist Assel Nurgaziyeva refused to sign such a non-disclosure statement.

In the financial police departments, the civil activists were asked the following questions:
–       Are you personally acquainted with Mukhtar Ablyazov and/or other former employees of BTA Bank?
–       Have you any relations whatsoever with Mukhtar Ablyazov?
–       Are you a member of any party or public organization?
–       Are you in any way related to the suppressed illegal “Аlgа!” party?
–       Are you not planning to leave your place of residence in order to take part in gatherings or rallies in the nearest future?

Tulegen Kasenov noticed that during every interrogation, the finance police officers claimed to have been in possession of information pertaining to plans of certain civil activists to arrive of 12th July 2013 in Almaty in order to participate in a rally. The officers were of the opinion that the rally was financed by the means of Mukhtar Ablyazov, and therefore they deemed it illegal. A civil activists from Kokshetau, Viktor Novikov, was told by the police during an interrogation that on 12th July 2013 during the Almaty rally – allegedly – “provocations against the present authorities are due to commence”.

As has been publicised, on the 12th and 13th July 2013 in Almaty a rally of civil activists and opposition representatives is to be held with the aim of discussing the social issues in Kazakhstan. The civil society activists are particularly inclined to oppose the increase of the retirement age for women and the unsubstantiated increase in tariffs for the citizens. A number of Kazakhstan mass-media have been invited to cover the event.All the activists summoned to financial police interrogations are planning to take part in the rally. During the interrogations, the police warned them of the possibility of being held liable for participation in “actions financed from the means of Mukhtar Ablyazov”. The financial police claim that the activists’ participation in the Almaty rally may be seen as accomplice ship in a criminal act of which Mukhtar Ablyazov is accused.

The financial police, however, have no proof of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s participation in the organisation of the Almaty democratic forces rally. It may be presumed that such conclusions are made on the basis of the fact that among the rally participants there are the former members of the illegal oppositionist “Аlgа!” party – the successor of the  “Democratic choice of Kazakhstan” movement, one of the founders of which was Mukhtar Ablyazov. For the time being, however, the works of the illegal “Аlgа!” party are paralysed: the court has banned its activity on charges of extremism, and its offices were confiscated as a result of court verdict against the opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov. 

Previously, on 30th May 2013, the financial police conducted searches in the offices of “Arka Suyeu” and “Balga” non-governmental organisations. Their leaders are the former members of “Аlgа!” party – Mikhail Sizov and Marat Zhanuzakov. They were members of an organisational committee honoured with the duty of awarding the «Freedom» award.Other members of the organisational committee – Nurlana Zholdasova and Gulzhan Lepesova – were on 31st May 2013 taken for interrogation to the financial police department; financial police claimed that the financing of the “Freedom” prize is conducted personally by the opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov.

It is also worth noting that interrogations concerning the activists’ private plans on their participation in the democratic forces rally should be deemed illegal, as they have no direct relation to the case against Mukhtar Ablyazov. Moreover, section 3 paragraph 82 of Cr.P.C of RoK gives a witness the right to withhold from testifying if their testimony might result in their relatives being prosecuted for commencing a criminal act or an administrative offence.

Civil activists Tulegen Kasenov have also stated that certain activists received a subsequent summons to report for interrogations conducted by the financial police, scheduled for 11th July 2013 and 12th July 2013, which effectively prevented them from taking part in the democratic forces rally in Almaty. The summons featured the following annotation: “Attendance obligatory!” as well as indicated, that in case of absence the legal investigator has the right to impose a sanction; having the witness brought to interrogations coercively. On 5th July 2013, during a subsequent interrogation, a financial police officer, one Е. Akhmetzhanov, informed Tulegen Kasenov that “already by July 11th there will be officers of the central authority of Agency on fighting with economic and corruption crimes in every provincial centre and in Almaty. Therefore on July 12th we [i.e. the activists] should be found in our places of residence, as these officers will want to talk to us”. Tulegen Kasenov refused to accept his summons to his 4thinterrogation in a row, scheduled for 12th July 2013. He considers that the actions on the part of the financial police are actually inspired by the National security committee.

Countless interrogations of civil activists raise concern that any further civil initiatives in Kazakhstan, being opposed to the official politics, may in a similarly unsubstantiated way, be found by the authorities as being financed by the means of the ‘fallen from grace’ businessman- Mukhtar Ablyazov. Based on these premises, any public actions not to the official authorities’ liking may be dubbed as “illegal” by the Kazakhstan prosecutor’s office. Therefore, opposition civil activists are exposed to the risk of being summoned for interrogations or being detained by the police.

The Open Dialog Foundation is strongly critical of the use of law enforcement organs, especially of the financial police, who have the aim of exerting political pressure, threatening and persecuting civil activists and the opposition in Kazakhstan. Such actions by the Kazakh authorities are a gross breach of the OSCE commitments on freedom of expression, assembly and association, which the former claimed to have adopted. We express our deepest concern at the possibility of further repercussions against the civil activists and opposition organisations in Kazakhstan. We hereby call on the Kazakh authorities, and especially on the Agency against economic and corruption crimes, to cease their persecution of civil activists by infringing their constitutional right to peaceful assembly and rally.

You can support our appeal by writing to the following:

  • Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan against economic and corruption crimes: 010000, Astana, Kazakhstan, S. Seyfullina street, 37. E-mail: [email protected] Tel. +7 7172 90 92 60, +7 7172 90 92 14. President: Rashid Tusupbekov.
  • President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev – 010000, city Astana, Kazakhstan, Presidential Administration, “Akorda” bldg., Ishim river left bank, fax +7 7172 72 05 16.