Conversation of 8 October, 2013, 7:00 | Lidovky.cz
PRAGUE – The complicated case of a manager, Tatiana Paraskevich, who has been held in a Czech detention facility for more than a year now. Her extradition has been requested by Russia and Ukraine; a request which is of a political nature, human rights organisations assure. This view is shared by the manager’s family. “They use us to exert pressure and threaten us, we fear for our lives”, the mother and the daughter of Tatiana Paraskevich stated in an interview for the ‘Lidovky.cz’ website.
Lidovky.cz: Tatiana Paraskevich has been remanded in custody for more than a year now. Are you in touch with her?
Maria Grigoryeva (MG), the mother of Tatiana Paraskevich: Yes, we visit her regularly. The prison management allows meetings twice a month. Her cell in the detention centre is relatively small, it has a maximum area of 8 sq. m., and another woman is detained in the same cell. However, prison guards do behave appropriately.
Lidovky.cz: How is your daughter coping with the arrest?
MG: My daughter suffers from a serious cardiac disease. In this respect, the arrest deteriorates her health condition, even though she receives necessary medication. However, the developments mainly affect her mental state; she is very nervous, often cries and is very worried about the future.
TATIANA PARASKEVICH’S CASE
The website ‘Lidovky.cz’ reported on the case of Tatiana Paraskevich for the first time last year. At that time, the former member of the senior management of the company was arrested by Czech police during her stay in Karlovy Vary where she underwent medical treatment. The court ordered the pre-trial detention of Paraskevich on the basis of an international arrest warrant, issued due to the accusations of siphoning off Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank’s funds and misappropriation of $ 5 billion.
Although Paraskevich had allegedly committed the crime in Kazakhstan, her extradition has been sought by Ukraine since 2012, and in June 2013, an official request for her extradition was issued by the Russian Federation. The question remains, however, whether the Czech Republic will extradite Paraskevich (MORE DETAILS ON THIS CASE ARE AVAILABLE HERE).
Organisations dealing with human rights (Amnesty International, the Czech Helsinki Committee, and the Open Dialogue Foundation) all agree that the case has a political background and, in fact, the allegations against Paraskevich serve as a smokescreen used to conceal a showdown between Kazakh authorities and the opposition. Paraskevich was a close associate of an opposition leader, Mukhtar Ablyazov, like Alexandr Pavlov (Ablyazov’s former security guard) and Muratbek Ketebayev (a member of Ablyazov’s party ‘Alga’). They both were charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism; both find themselves in the same situation as Paraskevich: they reside in the EU member countries (Spain, Poland) and are facing extradition.
On 9 April, 2013, Tatiana Paraskevich filed an application for asylum
in the Czech Republic. As long as the asylum application is being considered, the Czech Minister of Justice cannot approve her extradition.
Lidovky.cz: Tatiana Paraskevich was charged with criminal conspiracy and misappropriation of funds. A request for her extradition was first filed by Ukraine, and in June, the request was also joined by Russia. What do you think about the charges?
MG: They’re contrived.
Maria Paraskevich (MP), the daughter of Tatiana Paraskevich: My mother’s case has a political background. Ukraine and Russia are working side by side with the Kazakh government bodies who want the mother to be brought within the range of their influence. They want to use her for actions against Mukhtar Ablyazov. By joining the request, Russia supported Ukraine. It is common knowledge that the Ukrainian judicial system is unjust, which could complicate extradition. Russia hasn’t attached any original documents to its request; the only basis for the Russian request is allegations made by Ukraine.
Lidovky.cz: You said that the two extradition requests are identical. Do you know their exact content?
MP: We have documents which contain the motion for extradition; to be more precise, my mother’s lawyer, Marina Machytková, has them. We do not know, however, on what basis they request extradition, and so, we don’t know the specific content of allegations. Investigators claim that they will only present this material to my mother upon her arrival to Ukraine or Russia. They are currently refusing to reveal its content.
Lidovky.cz: The accusations are based, amongst other things, on the results of house searches. Where you present when the searches were carried out?
MP: House searches took place in Altay and – even twice – in Moscow. In the Moscow apartment I live with my father and grandmother. During the search we were at home. The police came armed with machine guns and behaved very aggressively towards us. They threatened to kidnap me in order to force my mother to agree to her extradition to Russia, they threatened me with expulsion from university. My grandma was threatened with imprisonment until such time that my mother testifies against Ablyazov. Also, my older brother was threatened with imprisonment. In turn, my father was told that if my mother chooses to testify, she will be involved in the case as a witness, and not a defendant. He was also warned that if my mother refuses to give testimony, then, in the case of her extradition with the aim of her criminal prosecution (regardless of whether she would be rendered to Russia or Ukraine), it is possible that she will be poisoned in prison, or killed before she even arrives there.
Lidovky.cz: According to Marina Machytková, your mother was also threatened by a Russian investigator, involved in the case. Is this true?
MP: An employee of the Russian Interior Ministry named Nikolay Budilo is involved in my mother’s case. He is listed on the Magnitsky List (the so-called ‘Magnitsky List’, including 60 high-ranking Russian individuals, accused of the killing of a foreign investment fund auditor, Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian jail (ed.) MORE DETAILS ON THIS TOPIC ARE AVAILABLE HERE). Budilo visited my mother in prison, he behaved very aggressively, yelling at her and threatening her. When my mother’s counsel, Mrs. Machytková, reprimanded him, he began to threaten her as well. Specifically, he said that if they were in Russia, he would have had her imprisoned a long time ago.
Lidovky.cz: Do you believe these threats? Are you afraid?
MP: Yes, we are all very scared. I’m afraid to leave the house, and, while I’m on the street, I constantly look back to check if I am being followed. Also, I’m scared when I’m alone at home, because I know that they can come at any time. They don’t care that I’m a girl, they could do anything to me, they could force me to do anything. Also, for this reason, my grandma and I wrote a statement, in which we declared that, should anything happen to us or to my mother, especially if we were to find ourselves back in Kazakhstan, like Ablyazov’s wife, and if we were forced to testify, such testimony would be given under duress. (Alma Shalabayeva, Mukhtar Ablyazov’s wife was deported from Italy to Kazakhstan under unclear circumstances. Despite the repeal of the deportation order, she cannot leave Kazakhstan and faces imprisonment (Ed.)).
Lidovky.cz: Is there any institution in Russia to which you can apply for assistance?
MP: There is no such institution. Before the Open Dialogue Foundation began to help us, we hadn’t talked about all these threats. We were afraid that if we were to confide it to someone, the situation would become even worse. In a sense, after the establishment of co-operation with the Open Dialogue Foundation and after I began to speak about my mother openly, I’m even more scared. We have been to the European Parliament together, I delivered a speech during the OSCE conference (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Ed.)). Still, I believe I chose the right path. I can’t help my mother by remaining silent about what is happening. I fear for her, I’m afraid that after her extradition, she will be subjected to torture in the worst possible ways. But I cannot lose hope.
THE STANCE OF THE OPEN DIALOG FOUNDATION
“This case can be regarded as a political order from the Kazakh authorities which are interested in her extradition to Ukraine and the Russian Federation. As the Kazakh law enforcement agencies are working closely with their Ukrainian and Russian colleagues, they will therefore be able to exert pressure on Tatiana Paraskevich in order to obtain incriminating statements against Mukhtar Ablyazov, the main political opponent of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s regime”.