The life and health of Alexander Pavlov are under threat due to his possible extradition to Kazakhstan on politically motivated charges

  • 12.08.2013
  • Author:

Alexander Pavlov’s lawyers appealed against the decision of a Spanish court on his extradition to Kazakhstan. The former security chief and confidant of opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov is a valuable source of information for the law enforcement agencies of Kazakhstan. The disappearance of a mobile phone belonging to Alexander Pavlov after the seizure of his belongings by police, raises concern about his future security as representatives of the Kazakh authorities may have been involved in this incident. If extradited, Alexander Pavlov faces the risk of being tortured, assassination attempts as well as an unfair trial due to of his association with Mukhtar Ablyazov.

On 22 July, 2013, Audiencia Nacional (National High Court of Spain) authorised the extradition of Alexander Pavlov to Kazakhstan, the former security chief of opposition politician, Mukhtar Ablyazov. In 2012, the investigating authorities in Kazakhstan issued an international arrest warrant for Alexander Pavlov on charges of terrorism and embezzlement of entrusted property. On 28 March, 2012, the Prosecutor's Office of Kazakhstan, in violation of the laws relating to presumption of innocence, labelled opposition politicians Muratbek Ketebayev and Mukhtar Ablyazov as well as the security chief Alexander Pavlov ‘organisers’ of the foiled terrorist plot in Almaty.

On 26 July, 2013, Maria Costa Nuche, Alexander Pavlov’s counsel, appealed against the decision of Audiencia Nacional on extradition. In early September 2013, the appeal will be considered by 12 judges of Audiencia Nacional. The court will not operate in the mode of hearings: within 2 months the judges will make a decision and announce it. When deciding to extradite Alexander Pavlov, the court pointed to the fact that Spain and Kazakhstan signed an extradition treaty on 21 November, 2012, which stated that ‘Kazakhstan is a safe country that adheres to the minimum democratic standards’.

However, when Audiencia Nacional was deciding whether to extradite Alexander Pavlov to Kazakhstan, it failed to take into account a number of important arguments:  

1. The charges of preparing terrorist acts, brought against Alexander Pavlov, are questionable and clearly political in nature.

The court emphasised that the accusations of terrorism cannot be considered political. According to Article 3 of the Treaty on Extradition between Kazakhstan and Spain, extradition is denied if ‘the requested Party considers that the offence for which extradition is requested is a political offence. At the same time, terrorist crimes do not qualify as political”. On 24 May, 2013, Spain's National Intelligence Service (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia) prepared a report which noted that Alexander Pavlov, because of the charges in connection with the preparation of terrorist acts on the territory of Kazakhstan, poses a threat to the national security of Spain. The counsel Maria Costa Nuche who had access to the report, notes that it repeats verbatim the official position of the Kazakh Prosecutor’s Office. In fact, the Kazakh authorities are using terrorism charges as a mechanism to prosecute and discredit opposition activists.

Since 1 June, 2013, Aleksandr Pavlov has been remanded in an isolated detention cell under harsh conditions, with limit contact with the staff. These are the circumstances under which defendants accused of acts of terrorism are usually remanded in detention in Spain. However, Alexander Pavlov did not violate Spanish law, and the evidence base regarding his alleged involvement in the preparation of terrorist acts in Kazakhstan is questionable, and bears traits of fabrication.

The allegations against Alexander Pavlov are based on the testimony of an anonymous person, who agreed to cooperate with the investigators. According to the anonymous person, the attacks were planned in Almaty on orders of activists close to the Kazakh opposition (Mukhtar Ablyazov, his bodyguard, Alexander Pavlov, Muratbek Ketebayev). Thus, despite the secrecy of the investigation, operative footage along with the testimony of the unknown witness was published on the Internet. There are also fundamental differences between the officially released information, issued by the General Prosecutor's Office and the testimony of the anonymous witness. In addition, the Prosecutor's Office in Kazakhstan argues that there is record of a conversation which took place by virtue of Skype, during which, Alexander Pavlov and his partner allegedly discussed the transportation of explosive materials, but the recording nor the transcript of that conversation have yet been made public.

It transpired that Igor Vinyavskiy, a renowned Kazakh journalist and former editor of the ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, a few days after his release in March 2012, was connected to the case as a ‘witness’. One of those arrested, who agreed to cooperate with the investigation, argued that he reportedly met with Igor Vinyavskiy. Fearing fresh persecution, Igor Vinyavskiy was forced to leave Kazakhstan. According to him, the Kazakh authorities may have fabricated a criminal case relating to terrorism in order to portray the opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov and his associates as enemies of society.Six months later, based on the conviction of the opposition leader, Vladimir Kozlov, on 20 December, 2012, the Almaty City Court recognised Igor Vinyavskiy’s independent newspaper 'Vzglyad’ as ‘extremist’ and banned its activities on the territory of Kazakhstan. So far, no information about the commencement of the terrorism trial has been made public.

It should be noted that prior to his forced exile, Alexander Pavlov served in a special unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Kazakhstan. In 2001, during one of the operations aimed at apprehending terrorists, he was wounded in a shootout with members of the Xinjiang Uighur militant group ‘East Turkistan Islamic Movement’. Alexander Pavlov was extolled by his service in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan and promoted to Major. 

2. The Kazakh authorities are making attempts to extradite members of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s circles from Europe in order to obtain incriminatory testimonies against him.

The Kazakh government has accused Mukhtar Ablyazov of funding the Zhanaozen events in 2011, on the basis of which, the opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov was convicted, and the activities of 34 independent media outlets and the opposition party ‘Alga!’ were banned. Kazakh law enforcement bodies have effectively declared it ‘open season’ for the hunters of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s relatives and partners in Europe.

Although Alexander Pavlov himself has never been engaged in political activities, the charges against him are clearly political in nature, as the regime of President Nursultan Nazarbayev persecutes not only his main political opponent Mukhtar Ablyazov, but also his partners, associates and relatives in Europe.

This was also recognised by the United Kingdom Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, which in January 2012, granted political asylum to Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov and Roman Solodchenko, former business partners of Mukhtar Ablyazov, who have been charged with the embezzlement of funds from BTA Bank.  According to the report of the National Intelligence Agency of Spain, the Kazakh authorities intend to interrogate Alexander Pavlov in connection with the same case. 

The opposition politician, Muratbek Ketebayev, one of the suspects in the criminal case against Alexander Pavlov, submitted an application for political asylum in Poland on 10 January, 2013. Kazakhstan accuses him of an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order, but the district prosecutor's office in Lublin labelled the accusations ‘politically motivated’.

During  the night of 1 June, 2013, Alma Shalabayeva, the wife of Mukhtar Ablyazov, along with their 6-year-old daughter, were illegally deported by private plane to Kazakhstan. Upon their arrival at the airport, representatives of special services announced to Alma Shalabayeva that she was accused of forging passports of Kazakhstan, and she is going to be interrogated in connection with the criminal case against Mukhtar Ablyazov. The international organisation UN Watch, members of the European Parliament, Amnesty International, as well as the Italian government noted the illegal nature of the deportation of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s wife and daughter to Kazakhstan.

In addition, the Kazakh authorities are insisting that Tatiana Paraskevich and Zaure Akpenbetova, former employees of BTA Bank and businesses owned by Mukhtar Ablyazov, be extradited from Europe. They are currently awaiting decisions following their applications for political asylum in the Czech Republic and Hungary, respectively.

On 24 January, 2013, Alexander Pavlov filed an application for political asylum, but it was rejected on 5 July, 2013, in violation of the procedure, following its consideration in the first instance. The case of Alexander Pavlov should have been considered according to the emergency procedure, under which it is obligatory to provide an independent opinion from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, the Commission put the issue to a vote in the shortest possible time without having received a report from UNHCR.

If the Board of Appeals of the Audiencia Nacional re-sanctions the extradition of Alexander Pavlov, his counsels will appeal against the decision.  The transfer of Alexander Pavlov to Kazakhstan cannot be executed, until his application for refugee status  has been considered.

3. Despite the signing of an extradition treaty with Spain, Kazakhstan is an undemocratic state, where the right to a fair trial is not respected, and detainees and prisoners are subjected to systematic torture and other ill-treatment.

In its decision to extradite Alexander Pavlov, the court referred to the extradition treaty between Spain and Kazakhstan, which was signed on 21 November, 2012. However, to date, Spain is the only country in the European Union which has signed an extradition treaty with Kazakhstan. The GeneralProsecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan is also preparing to sign the treaty with the Czech Republic and is carrying out negotiations regarding this matter with Italy and Slovenia. However, so far, these countries have not agreed a deal on mutual extradition with Kazakhstan. In addition, the extradition treaty between Spain and Kazakhstan came into effect only on 1 August, 2013, i.e. at the time when the court made the decision to extradite Alexander Pavlov, it referred to an invalid extradition treaty. Sadly, the very existence of such a treaty is for the court, an indicator of  a trusting relationship between the two countries, particularly with regard to respect for democratic standards and the rule of law.

In a ‘Democracy Index’, developed by the analytical department of the influential weekly British publication ‘The Economist’ (The Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU) Kazakhstan ranked 143 of 165 countries. Its political regime has been officially attributed to the category of ’authoritarian regimes’.In Freedom House’s report entitled ‘Nations in Transit 201’, Kazakhstan was assigned to the group of states with a ‘consolidated authoritarian regime’. In July 2013, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Yerlan Idrisov, in an interview for the newspaper ‘The Hill’, stated: "Those who think that Kazakhstan is an anti-democratic state, are very wrong. We are not a democracy today, but the construction of a new political culture is a very difficult task and it cannot be achieved overnight". 

On the basis of the results of the observation mission in the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Polish Bar Council concluded that ‘Kazakh courts are heavily influenced by government authorities. The justice system and public administration are largely corrupt’. In its resolution on Kazakhstan of 18 April, 2013, the European Parliament expressed concern that court trials, which did not adhere to the international standards in Kazakhstan, resulted in the conviction of opposition leaders and lawyers: Vladimir Kozlov, Rosa Tuletayeva, Vadim Kuramshin. In the recent report on world human rights observance, the U.S. State Department noted that one of the most significant problems in the field of human rights abuses in Kazakhstan is ‘the lack of an independent judiciary and access to a fair trial’.  

Furthermore, in its report on Kazakhstan, issued on 11 July, 2013, Amnesty International concluded that the Kazakh authorities are unable to fully and effectively implement their commitments under the UN Convention Against Torture: “In 2013, in Kazakhstan, defence and law enforcement agencies continue to enjoy full impunity for human rights violations... Reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners by workers of defence and law enforcement agencies as well as prisons have been continuously reported since 2010, despite regular assurances from the Government that it is successfully engaged in solving this problem”.  

Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture prohibits the deliverance of a person to the state, where the detainee may be subjected to torture. The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Article 33) also protects a person against expulsion, if this person may be subjected to persecution in connection with his or her political beliefs.

Since Alexander Pavlov was a confidant of Mukhtar Ablyazov, he is a valuable source of information for Kazakh law enforcement bodies in relation to the case surrounding the opposition politician. On 25 July, 2013, Amnesty International opposed the extradition of Alexander Pavlov to Kazakhstan, where he may face torture and/or unfair trial because of his association with Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Certain events that occurred in relation to Alexander Pavlov in Spain, raise concern regarding his future security. According to his counsel, after the seizure of Alexander Pavlov’s personal belongings by the police, his documents and cellphone disappeared. Later, the documents were found, but the mobile phone hasn’t yet been recovered. There are fears that certain Spanish police officers and representatives of the Kazakh authorities may have been involved in the incident. It is possible that thanks to the information stored on Alexander Pavlov’s cellphone, private investigators were able to determine the location of Mukhtar Ablyazov in France; him subsequently being detained shortly afterwards by French police.

On 8 October, 2013, Human Rights Watch stated: "The French authorities should protect Ablyazov against expulsion to Kazakhstan or to any other country, where he will face risk of refoulement to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is known for the imprisonment of government critics following unfair trials as well as ill-treatment in detention”. Among the critics of the regime and supporters of Mukhtar Ablyazov, who are persecuted by Kazakh authorities, HRW mentions Alexander Pavlov, Alma Shalabayeva, Muratbek Ketebaev. HRW has noted a serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Kazakhstan.

4. Economic and political interests of governments cannot override the fundamentals of human rights.

Economic and political factors in the bilateral relations of Kazakhstan and Spain may affect the authorisation of Alexander Pavlov’s extradition. For Kazakhstan, Spain is one of the key economic and political partners in Europe, having become the second European country (after France), with which Kazakhstan has signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement. Nursultan Nazarbayev bestowed the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, with the highest honour of the Republic of Kazakhstan - ‘Altyn Kyran’ order. Kazakhstan offers Spain lucrative contracts, which is especially important in the context of acute economic crisis into which Spain has plunged.

On 5-6 February, 2013, during an official working visit to Spain, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev held a series of bilateral meetings with the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, the Chairman of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, and the heads of the leading Spanish companies: ‘Patentes TALGO S.A.’, ‘Maksam’ , ‘OHL’, ‘Next Limit Technologies’. As a result of the meetings, several agreements on cooperation between Kazakhstan and Spanish companies were concluded, particularly in the sphere of production of railway equipment, software development and infrastructure construction including seaports, airports, roads and railways. On 11 June, 2013, under the framework of the official visit of the Minister of Defence of Spain, Pedro de Morenés y Álvarez de Eulate, to Kazakhstan, the two countries signed a memorandum on military technical cooperation.

 

The Open Dialog Foundation wishes to emphasise that extradition is an act of mutual assistance between states in the fight against crime on, the basis of the principles of justice, but extradition agreements mustn’t be used as weapons in the fight against political opponents, endangering their lives and health. We hereby call on the authorities of the Kingdom of Spain to prevent the refoulement of Alexander Pavlov to Kazakhstan. We also reaffirm the need to grant Alexander Pavlov political asylum in the Kingdom of Spain. 

All those who wish to support our appeals, may contact the following addresses:

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain (Ministerio De Asuntos Exteriores Y De Cooperacion) - 28012, Madrid, Plaza de la Provincia, 1, tel. + 34 91 379 97 00;
  • The Ministry of Justice of the Kingdom of Spain (Ministerio De Justicia) - 28012, Madrid, Calle Bolsa, 8, tel. +34 91 837 22 95;
  • National High Court of the Kingdom of Spain (Audiencia Nacional) – appeals may be sent in the electronic form at: http://www.poderjudicial.es/cgpj/en/Services/Message_box/Suggestion_box
  • Lower House of Parliament (Congreso de los Diputados) - c/ Floridablanca s/n - 28071 - Madrid, tel. +34 91 390 60 00, fax: +34 91 429 87 07, e-mail: informacion@congreso.es
  • Upper House of Parliament (Senado) - c/ Bailén, 3, 28071, Madrid, tel. +34 91 538 10 94, +34 91 538 10 34, e-mail: gabinete.presidencia@senado.es
  • Spanish Association Commission for Migrations (ACCEM - Asociación Comisión Católica Española de Migraciones) – tel. +34 91 532 7478, +34 91 532 7479, e-mail: accem@accem.es
  • International Association for Refugees ‘Rescate’ NGO - c/ Luchana, 36, 4º Dcha., 28010, Madrid, tel. +34 91 447 29 60, +34 91 447 28 72, fax: +34 91 447 23 21, e-mail: rescate@ongrescate.org
  • Office of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Spain (Oficina De Asilo Y Refugio) - 28002, Madrid, C/Pradillo, 40, tel. +34 91 537 21 70;
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, representative office in the Kingdom of Spain - 28020, Madrid, Avenida del General Perón, 32, tel. + 34 91 556 35 03, e-mail - spama@unhcr.org

More on this topic: Ablyazov, Pavlov, extradition