ABLYAZOV DEFENSE HITS OUT AT “ABOMINABLE” LYON COURT DECISIONS IN FAVOR OF EXTRADITION TO RUSSIA OR UKRAINE OF KAZAKH POLITICAL OPPONENT MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV
DEFENSE CONFIDENT THAT LYON COURT RULINGS IN FAVOR OF EXTRADITION WILL BE OVERTURNED; THAT FRANCE WILL NEVER EXTRADITE ABLYAZOV TO RUSSIA OR UKRAINE
DEFENSE ADMONISHES LYON JUDGES FOR “COWARDLY RULINGS PANDERING TO RUSSIA AND UKRAINE; RULINGS THAT BRING FRANCE DOWN TO THE ROCK BOTTOM OF THE EUROPEAN LEGAL ORDER”
DEFENSE QUESTIONS WHETHER LYON COURT DECISIONS ARE “JUDICIAL ERROR, BAD FAITH, COWARDICE OR LAZINESS”, AS LYON JUDGES RULE THAT RUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN JUSTICE SYSTEMS ARE SUFFICIENTLY FAIR, UNCORRUPTED AND PROTECTIVE OF RIGHTS FOR ABLYAZOV TO BE EXTRADITED
DEFENSE UNDERLINES THAT IN KAFKAESQUE FASHION, COURT IGNORED EVERY JUDICIAL AND EXPERT AUTHORITY THAT IF EXTRADITED ABLYAZOV IS CERTAIN TO FACE UNfair TRIAL, TORTURE, and TRANSFER TO KAZAKHSTAN
DEFENSE NOTES THAT JUDGES SHUT THEIR EARS, REFUSING TO HEAR DEFENSE WITNESSES GARRY KASPAROV, LEV PONOMAREV AND MARK FEYGIN, WHO TRAVELED TO LYON TO PARTICIPATE IN PROCEEDINGS; JUDGES CHOSE TO LISTEN ONLY TO VISITING RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR INSTEAD
Lyon, October 24, 2014 — After a court in Lyon gave a green light to France’s extradition of Kazakh political opponent Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia or Ukraine this evening, on the basis of a one-day hearing for each case, at which the judges refused to hear a single defense witness, Ablyazov’s defense vowed that their client will never be extradited from France to either country.
Expressing confidence that the Lyon court’s “slipshod and fundamentally flawed decisions” will be overturned at one of the multiple subsequent levels of appeal, the defense hit out hard at the Lyon court’s “flawed decisions that bring France to the rock bottom of the European legal order”.
Ablyazov and his defense lawyers had exposed the absurdity and politically motivated nature of the Russian and Ukrainian proceedings against him. However, the presiding judge asserted that the Lyon court is not there to determine whether or not the allegations are well founded, but rather only “whether the extradition requests comply with procedural rules”.
The formalistic rulings, with the judges shutting their eyes to the realities of today’s Russia and Ukraine, represented “a complete shirking of the judges’ responsibilities as guardians of the law, and guardians of human rights”, according to Bruno Rebstock, Ablyazov’s defense lawyer.
The defense pointed out that since December 2013, seven European countries – from Poland to Austria to the Czech Republic to the United Kingdom to Italy to Spain and Switzerland – had all refused extraditions to Russia, Ukraine or Kazakhstan, or provided protection to people associated with Ablyazov.
Ablyazov’s defense lawyers also underlined that no less than seven people from the Magnitsky List were involved in fabricating the Ablyazov case in Russia. These people included the judge Aleksey Krivoruchko, who issued Ablyazov’s Russian arrest warrant, and investigator Nikolai Budilo, in charge of the case. The Russian judge is in fact banned from entry to the United States. Krivoruchko, Budilo and the five others from the Magnitsky List involved in the Ablyazov case may also soon be banned from entry to the European Union. Legislative initiatives are underway in several European countries and at the European Parliament.
In giving a green light to Ablyazov’s extradition to Russia, the Lyon court approved a parallel extradition request from Ukraine, though stating that extradition to Russia should be the priority. This despite proof marshaled by the defense, showing that Ukraine’s accusations against Ablyazov, issued under the defunct regime of Viktor Yanukovich, had been fabricated at the behest of Kazakhstan. The court’s decision on the Ukrainian case was all the more perplexing considering that numerous questions raised by the defense, fatally undermining the credibility of the Ukrainian case, were simply ignored by the judges.
During the daylong hearings on September 25 and October 17, 2014, in Kafkaesque fashion, the judges refused to hear a word from defense witnesses, including world chess legend and Russian political opponent Garry Kasparov, who had traveled to Lyon and was in the courtroom to testify as a witness. The court likewise refused to hear preeminent Russian human rights law expert Lev Ponomarev and Ablyazov’s Russian defense lawyer Mark Feygin, who were also present. The defense noted that when United States President Barack Obama visited Moscow in June 2013, he met with Ponomarev to discuss Russian rule-of-law problems; yet the Lyon judges did not deem that Ponomarev could enlighten them on the very questions that they were supposed to be examining under European extradition law.
The judges followed the requisitions of Lyon prosecutor Christian Ponsard, who had asserted that there were no systemic problems in Russia’s or Ukraine’s judicial and law enforcement systems that would create risks for Ablyazov if extradited. Ponsard’s position was in total denial of the realities documented and presented to the court by Ablyazov’s defense – as confirmed by massive hard evidence in the form of hundreds of European court decisions, the official positions of international governmental and non-governmental organizations, and not even to mention the recent geopolitical spectacle of a belligerent Russia ignoring international law, annexing Ukraine and fuelling a war on European soil. For the Lyon court, Russia and Ukraine are rule-of-law states, reliable partners of France that could only act in good faith, and where Ablyazov faces no risk of an unfair trial or of mistreatment in detention.
Human rights activists from the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had turned out in force to observe the two days of Ablyazov’s extradition hearings in Lyon. The Ablyazov extradition proceedings landed in the Lyon Court of Appeal after the French Cassation Court, in April 2014, annulled the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal’s January 2014 decisions in favor of Ablyazov’s extradition to Russia or Ukraine.
Ablyazov will avail himself of every level of appeal available to him, and his lawyers are confident that “ultimately France will not rank itself at the level of dictators and descend into a legal and moral gutter” by extraditing Ablyazov to Russia or Ukraine.
Whether the Lyon court’s position on the Ablyazov extradition is due to “judicial error, bad faith, cowardice or laziness”, Ablyazov’s defense vows that ultimately they will prevail.
Statement by Bruno Rebstock, Mukhtar Ablyazov’s French Extradition Lawyer
With this abominable decision, the Lyon court today has replicated many of the mistakes that the Aix-en-Provence court made in its January decision, annulled in April by the Cassation Court. The Lyon court ignored evidence of the political nature of the proceedings against Ablyazov and it relies heavily upon pure fiction: that Ablyazov can supposedly get a fair trial and not suffer mistreatment if extradited.
The Lyon court brings shame upon the French justice system, which has distinguished itself amongst its European peers, standing alone against contrary judicial decisions in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Since December 2013, all seven of those countries have refused to extradite Ablyazov’s associates or family members, or have provided them with protection.
How can we explain that France – the so-called “country of human rights”, as Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is fond of saying – stands out by imagining that such a politicized case can be heard in a fair trial in Russia or in Ukraine? That Russia’s and Ukraine’s promises not to torture or extradite Ablyazov, or send him to Kazakhstan, have any value whatsoever?
Ablyazov is not going to Russia or Ukraine any time soon. We are fully confident that he will again prevail at the Cassation Court. Even if he does not, he can still appeal to the Conseil d’Etat and to the European Court of Human Rights. And the French government can ultimately decide not to extradite Ablyazov, irrespective of any court decisions.
The Nazarbayev regime in Kazakhstan – Ablyazov’s real enemy, which is hiding behind the Russian and Ukrainian extradition proceedings in France – is renowned for its capacity to sow corruption in Europe. The pressures on France from Kazakhstan to extradite Ablyazov will only increase. Against the backdrop of a multi-billion-dollar commercial relationship, President Hollande is preparing for a trip to Kazakhstan in early December, leading a delegation of French business leaders. Yet France must not sacrifice its values. France must not extradite Ablyazov, a leading political opponent, or it will be the end of his life and the end of everything he has fought for. France must not have blood on her hands by helping a dictator to destroy Ablyazov.
Statement by Madina Ablyazova, Mukhtar Ablyazov’s Eldest of Four Children
After the court hearing on 17 October we had no illusions about what this decision was going to be. But we are deeply disappointed nonetheless. France considers itself a democratic country, but it succumbed with such ease to the pressure of the Kazakh dictator. No one has any doubts whatsoever that my father’s case is political! That Nazarbayev is taking revenge on him for refusing to kowtow before him! Khodorkovsky’s fate has already proven to the whole world a long time ago how justice is administered in Russia. And it is to this country – where Magnitsky perished, where Khodorkovsky spent ten years in jail – that the French court wants to send my father! This is simply unfathomable! I am convinced that when they were making this decision the judges were not being guided by good sense. It is a good thing that this decision is not yet final. We will continue to fight!