Hot topics:

The unlawful deportation of Alma Shalabayeva was the result of a targeted special operation carried out by Kazakh and Italian security forces

According to the information obtained by the Open Dialog Foundation, the Kazakh security forces addressed their Italian colleagues with a request to seize Mukhtar Ablyazov through Interpol channels and parallelly, they made ​​a request for the arrest and immediate deportation of his wife and 6-year-old daughter from Italy. The wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov in Italy were under close surveillance. International human rights organisations and the United Nations have expressed serious concern about the ‘extraordinary rendition’ of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s wife and daughter to Kazakhstan. 


The unlawful deportation of the wife and 6-year-old daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov almost provoked a government crisis in Italy. In this regard, the Italian government was forced to initiate an investigation into the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova from Italy. On 16 July, 2013, the State Security Department of the Italian Republic conducted an appropriate investigation. The findings of which are contrary to the information received from lawyers and human rights organisations.

The findings which the State Security Department arrived at during the investigation are as follows:

  • the deportation was carried out without violation of the existing procedures;
  • Alma Shalabayeva’s expulsion from Italy was authorised by the competent authorities of the Republic of Italy;
  • Neither did Alma Shalabayeva nor her defenders request or file applications for asylum;
  • Alma Shalabayeva did not state that she held a residence permit issued by a country in the Schengen area.

The State Security Department confirmed that the expulsion of Alma Shalabayeva and her daughter was carried out without notification having been given to the Minister of the Interior.In addition, the Italian party side was allegedly not informed that the husband of the expelled woman (Mukhtar Ablyazov) is a Kazakh dissident (which is doubtful, since Alma Shalabayeva was arrested during the raid aimed at seizing Mukhtar Ablyazov).

According to the findings of the State Security Department, the clear and noticeable interest in the expulsion of Alma Shalabayeva on the part of the Kazakh embassy inevitably gave the impression that the case was of high importance: In fact, since this process was directly affecting the Ministry of the Interior, the execution of the operation had to be closely monitored at all stages, in conjunction with local authorities, who are responsible for carrying out specific operations. The phase, during which the expulsion of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s wife was carried out, was not orchestrated by the State Security Department”.

 The State Security Department also focuses on the fact that the Ministry of the Interior and the Secretariat of the Department were fully briefed about the progress of the operation at its initial stage (when the failed attempt to arrest Mukhtar Ablyazov was undertaken). But later, when it came to the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and her daughter, information was disseminated only between local authorities. According to the State Security Department of Italy, the expulsion of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov was carried out according to standard bureaucratic procedure.

However, according to the information obtained by the Open Dialog Foundation, the detention of Alma Shalabayeva in Italy was conducted purposefully within the scope of the existing cooperation between Italy and Kazakhstan in the sphere of the criminal investigation. The Kazakh special services informed their Italian counterpartsthat Mukhtar Ablyazov, along with his relatives, may stay in one of the villas in the suburbs of Rome. As it transpired, the Kazakh party requested that the Italian security forces detain not only Mukhtar Ablyazov, wanted by Interpol, but also that they find among the people living in the house his wife Alma Shalabayeva, who is reportedly in possession of a fake passport of the Central African Republic issued in the name of Alma Ayan. On 31 May, 2013, the Interpol department in Astana sent additional information to the Italian police, which subsequently aided the identification and arrest of Alma Shalabayeva. The Kazakh security forces, using the mechanisms of Interpol, requested that their Italian counterparts immediately deport Alma Shalabayeva on the basis of the accusation that she resides in Italy with allegedly false documents. At the same time, on 23 July, 2013, the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) stated that “Kazakhstan addressed Interpol in order to determine the whereabouts and to detain M. Ablyazov, and not any members of his family”. 

All the above proves that, firstly, Alma Shalabayeva was under close surveillance in Italy. Secondly, it is difficult to label her deportation ’standard bureaucratic procedure’ (as insisted upon by the State Security Department of Italy), since, most likely, the Italian secret services were involved in this very procedure.


In connection with the case of the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva, a scandal broke out in Italy, jeopardising the work of the current government, headed by Enrico Letta. The Italian public and the press were outraged by the ‘emergency’ expulsion from the country of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov. On 9 July, 2013, during a meeting of members of the lower chamber of the Italian Parliament with the Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, a question was raised about the circumstances of the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva from Italy to Kazakhstan. As it transpired, the Prime Minister hadn’t been informed of the circumstances surrounding the case. On 12 July, 2013, Enrico Letta was forced to convene a meeting of relevant ministers, which resulted in the adoption of a communiqué by the government. The statement announced the retrospective annulment of the deportation orders issued with regard to Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova, as the orders had been issued without the knowledge of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, or well as the heads of the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. The paper argues that the blame for this incident falls with the police authorities who failed to inform the Italian government about their actions in this ‘undoubtedly extraordinary’ case. Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry considered it inappropriate to comment on this decision as it constitutes an internal affair of Italy.

In addition, the Italian media cited the Interior Minister and simultaneously Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, Angelino Alfano, as being involved in the illegal deportation. He is also a member of the centre-right party headed by Silvio Berlusconi, known for his friendly relations with Nursultan Nazarbayev. The political parties ‘Five Star Movement’ and ‘Left, Ecology and Freedom’, demanded the resignation of Angelino Alfano. On 16 July, 2013, the head of Angelino Alfano’s Cabinet, Giuseppe Procaccini, resigned from the post (he was the one who had held a meeting with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Italy, Adrian Elemesov, shortly before the arrest of Alma Shalabayeva). On 19 July, 2013, the lower house of the Italian parliament considered the issue of the resignation of Angelino Alfano. Senators rejected a no-confidence motion against Angelino Alfano. The Minister of the Interior continues to insist that he was not aware of the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova. Still, the Italian media are posing the question whether Angelino Alfano didn’t indeed  know anything about the meeting between the head of his office, Giuseppe Procaccini, with the Ambassador of Kazakhstan on the eve of Alma Shalabayev’s detention.

On 17 July, 2013, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Italy, Andrian Elemesov, was ordered to report to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in connection with the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova from the country. But as the Kazakh ambassador was on leave, the meeting in the MFA was attended by Kazakhstan’s Charge d’affaires ad interim , Zhanybek Imanaliyev. During the meeting, the Minister Emma Bonino expressed her dissatisfaction with the actions of the Kazakh Ambassador, Adrian Elemesov, and condemned Kazakh diplomats  for failing to inform the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the impending deportation (which they should have done in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations).On 24 July, 2013, the Kazakh Ambassador, Adrian Elemesov, stated that the Kazakh authorities hadn’t exerted any pressure on the Italian police. As he claims, he had just handed over the documents regarding Interpol’s wanted persons to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Italy. On 5 August, 2013, the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Zhanbolat Usenov, when commenting on the scandal with Ambassador Adrian Elemesov, assured: “The Ambassador was carrying out his duties fully. The Ambassador exerted no undue pressure on the law enforcement bodies of Italy”. Emma Bonino was considering the possibility of expelling the ambassador of Kazakhstan from Italy, but it would limit the opportunity of exerting diplomatic influence on the Kazakh authorities with regard to their compliance with the rights of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov in Kazakhstan.

Earlier, Minister Emma Bonino noted that the case of the illegal deportation would deteriorate the image of the Italian government, we would look pathetic – as if we had ‘sold out’ two hostages to a foreign government”. The President of the Chamber of Deputies of the national Parliament of the country, Laura Boldrini also stated: “There is no doubt that Shalabayeva’s case has hugely discredited our international prestige”. On 3 August, 2013, in Almaty, Alma Shalabayeva was visited by members of the Italian Parliament and representatives of the political party “Five Star Movement”. Member of the delegation, Malio de Stefano, stated: We have come especially for the purpose of seeing how Alma Shalabayeva is doing, as we were involved in her deportation from Italy. We bring wishes from our citizens, who did not like what had been done to Mrs. Shalabayeva in Rome”. Earlier, on 1 July, 2013, members of the Polish Sejm: Marcin Święcicki, Tomasz Makowski and Adam Rybakowicz visited Alma Shalabayeva in order to verify the terms of her custody under house arrest.
Also, the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, expressed his stark criticism of the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva. He noted that the decision to deport her was made without necessary verification or thorough examination of the situation by the Italian bodies: “For any country, it is unacceptable to give in to the pressure and interference of foreign diplomacy, which resulted in the hasty expulsion of a mother and child from Italy on the basis of distorted information. I also believe that we need to fully guarantee fundamental rights of persons, regardless of the status which they have in our country”.

On 24 July, 2013, the office of the judge of peace in the Immigration Department in Rome considered the complaint of Alma Shalabayeva’s counsels regarding violations of procedural rules during her deportation from Italy to Kazakhstan. The court expressed its view, stating that it condemned the deportation decision, as it was issued and carried out in violation of the law. But as the government’s communique retrospectively annulled the deportation decision, the court found that no further consideration of the case was necessary. For unknown reasons, the court decided to hold the meeting behind closed doors, thus denying the possibility for Italian journalists to observe the process nor the member of the Polish Parliament, Tomasz Makowski, and representatives of the Open Dialog Foundation.

On 25 June, 2013, members of the European Parliament, namely: Sari Essaya and Eija-Riitta Korhola, addressed a statement to Nursultan Nazarbayev, urging him to stop the politically motivated harassment of Alma Shalabayeva. “Being concerned about the recent kidnapping and forced deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova, the wife and 6-year-old daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov, from Italy to Kazakhstan, and the politically motivated charges, immediately brought against Shalabayeva in her country, we hereby call on for a cessation of the politically motivated harassment of opposition leaders’ families and for Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova to to be permitted to return to their place of residence in Europe” – the statement reads.

On 11 July, 2013, the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament discussed the issues related to the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova from Italy to Kazakhstan. In particular, the European Commission raised the questions: Why hadn’t the deportees been returned to Latvia before they were rendered to a third party?  And why wasn’t the issue of granting Shalabayeva a political asylum considered? Member of the European Parliament, Nicole Keel-Nielsen stated that the deportation was absolutely illegal.

On 12 July, 2013, the human rights organisation UN Watch presented the UN Council with a report on ‘unfair’ deportation of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov, in which it states: “The name of the illegally deported woman is Alma Shalabayeva, her daughter’s name is Aula, and the country, to which they were sent, being exposed to danger – is Kazakhstan. And even though this country has recently been elected a member of the UN Council on Human Rights, it seems that it needs assistance in the area of ​​human rights”. On 18 July, 2013, UN experts on human rights: François Crépeau, Juan E. Méndez, and Gabriela Knaul expressed their concern about the “extraordinary rendition” of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov.

On 13 July, 2013, a representative of the international organisation Amnesty International, Italy, Riccardo Nouri, commented on the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova: By deporting Alma Shalabayeva and her 6-year-old daughter, Italy has violated international laws; this deportation was carried out hastily and in accordance with a procedure unknown to our political authorities. The anullment of the deportation does not release our country from its obligation to ensure the safety of the woman and her child”. On 16 July, 2013, Amnesty International called on the Italian authorities to conduct a thorough international investigation into  the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova to Kazakhstan. On 17 July, 2013, Amnesty International stated: “Now Shalabayeva is in the hands of the Kazakh authorities which contrive charges against their political opponents and anyone associated to them. Also, Kazakhstan has a reputation  for subjecting its citizens to torture, ill -treatment and monstrously unfair trials”.

On 22 July, 2013, Hugh Williamson, the director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of the human rights organisation Human Right Watch announced: “The scandal which erupted in Rome, has adversely affected both Rome and Astana. In order to prevent further deterioration of the situation, Kazakhstan should return Shalabayeva and her daughter and deal with the growing concern regarding the violation of human rights”.

The Kazakh Foreign Ministry drew attention to the fact that during the arrest, Alma Shalabayeva allegedly presented a fake passport, for which the Italian criminal law provides  punishment by imprisonment for a period of up to 4 years. To the Ministry, Alma Shalabayeva’s return is not possible, as it would be contrary to Article 11, section 1 of the Constitution: Accordingly, A.Shalabayeva’s return to Italy, as is now discussed, in the absence of her consent, may be regarded as rendering by the Republic of Kazakhstan of its citizen to a foreign state for the purpose of criminal prosecution”. However, on 20 June, 2013, the Ministry of Justice of the Central African Republic (CAR) officially confirmed the legality of the CAR diplomatic passport № 06FB04081, issued to the name of Alma Ayan. On 12 August, 2013, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Kayrat Sarybay enunciated that the Kazakh authorities shall not limit Alma Shalabayeva’s possibility to travel abroad under the condition that the Italian party provides “guarantees that if necessary, if the justice system requires her presence, she’ll return”.

On 17 August, 2013, Alma Shalabayeva’s counsels confirmed that they had twice appealed to the Kazakh authorities to allow Alma Shalabayeva leave Kazakhstan. In addition, Alma Shalabayeva personally appealed to the head of the investigation department of the NSC, Atyrau Province, A. Abugaliyev, with a request to abrogate her house arrest. On 22 August, 2013, A. Abugaliyev, in his response to Alma Shalabayeva, noted that her applications are still pending consideration. According to the investigator, for a final decision to be made, Alma Shalabayeva should first clarify legal details and provide additional documents which prove that her children are residing in Europe”, “as well as a detailed justification of the lack of possibility or other reasons for which her children cannot visit her in Kazakhstan”.
On 27 August, 2013, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Emma Bonino, noted that the competent Kazakh authorities received Alma Shalabayeva’s request to grant her permission to leave the country: “If, in order to permit her to leave the country, the Kazakh government continues to demand that the receiving country undertakes the obligation to render her back, then I believe that no country will be able to promise to redeport a person, possibly, against his will, in such a situation”. 

The Open Dialog Foundation hereby strongly condemns the unlawful deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova to Kazakhstan, as this action was carried out in excess of authority and with gross violation of international standards in the area of treatment of refugees. Procedural guarantees of detained Alma Shalabayeva were violated, she was denied the opportunity to appeal against her deportation or file application to be granted political asylum. Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture, which forbids to extradite the person to the states, where he or she might be subjected to torture, was violated with respect to Alma Shalabayeva. The competent authorities of the Italian government should not have ignored the political motives of the Kazakh security forces in the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva, as it created an opportunity to subject her to pressure in order to obtain testimony against her husband, the opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov. The United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees (Article 33) protects the person against expulsion, if the person may be subsequently subjected to persecution due to his or her political beliefs.

The Open Dialog Foundation welcomes the decision of the Italian authorities regarding the retrospective anullment of the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova. At the same time, we hereby express our extreme concern regarding the uncovered incidents of shadowing Mukhtar Ablyazov’s family members in Italy. The Kazakh authorities have once again abused Interpol channels in an attempt to bring about the detention of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s family members, who legally resided in the territory of the European Union. Despite official claims of Italian and Kazakh authorities which assure that Alma Shalabayeva wasn’t the main target of the special operation on the outskirts of Rome, the deportation of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov bears all the traits of a political order, carried out in close cooperation of Kazakh and Italian law enforcement agencies.

Being concerned about the gross violations of human rights with regard to Alma Shalabayeva and her daughter during their deportation, and fearing for their future in Kazakhstan, the Open Dialog Foundation hereby urges the competent authorities of the government of the Italian Republic to take the folllowing steps:

to provide an independent public investigation into all the incidents relating to the violation of the rights of Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova, and to bring to justice those responsible for their unlawful deportation to Kazakhstan; 

to engage in the necessary efforts in order to return Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova to the European Union. 

We demand that the investigation section of the Department of the National Security Committee of Atyrau Province respond to Alma Shalabayeva’s request and annul her house arrest. We also address the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Kazakhstan with the demand that criminal proceedings against Alma Shalabayeva be discontinued due to the unlawfulness of citing her in the case as a defendant, as well as the absence of the event itself or the elements of the offences which were incriminated to her.   

You are welcome to support our appeals by addressing the following agencies:

  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Italy (Piazza del Viminale n. 1 – 00184  Roma, tel.: +3 90636 064 651, e-mail: [email protected]);
  • The Ministry of Justice of Italy (via Arenula 70 – 00186 Roma, +39 06 68851,  e-mail: [email protected]);
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy (00135, Rome, Piazzale della Farnesina, 1, tel.: +390 6369 18899);
  • The Consular Section of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Italy (00189, Rome, 471 Cassia Street, e-mail: [email protected], tel.: +390-6363-01130, +390-6363-08476, fax: +390-6362-92675, +390-6362-92612);
  • The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan (010000, Astana, House of Ministries, entrance No. 2, 8 Orynborg Street, tel.: +7 7172 71-26-20, +7 7172 71-28-68);
  • The Department of the National Security Committee of Atyrau Province (060000, Atyrau, 20 “А” Satpayeva Street, tel.: +7 7122 27-12-76, +7 7122 27-12-76);
  • The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (010000, Astana, Presidential Administration, Left Bank, tel.: +7 (7172) 74 55 24. The President of the RK – Nursultan Nazarbayev);
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Erlan Idrisov (010000, Astana, Left Bank, 31 Kunayeva Street, tel.: +7 7172 72 05 18, +7 7172 72 05 16, [email protected]).