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Kazakhstan: a political thaw did not come

On the 27th of March 2012 in the city of Aktau, a trial, connected with the events in the village of Shetpe and the town of Zhanaozen on the 16th and 17th of December, 2011, began. During the events, according to official figures, 17 people died. According to the Supreme Court, voiced by the official representative of the Supreme Court Oksana Peters, the case includes 37 defendants, more than 100 victims and 45 witnesses. In addition, 6 public prosecutors and 12 defense councels will take part in criminal proceedings.

Despite assurances made by officials of Kazakhstan regarding its compliance with promises made to the European Community to carry out the proceedings openly and to give free access both to the defense councils and to the relatives of suspects, especially of those connected with the opposition and independent media, some concerns occur due to the following recent developments:

1. A public confession of “inciting social hatred” made by Natalia Sokolova on the eve of the trials connected with Zhanaozen, which was regarded by human rights activists and independent media as “extorted by the authorities.” The press conference was held in Aktau, on the 26th of March, 2012, in an expensive four-star hotel named ‘Victoria’. Still, the mystery remains; by whom, and by what financial means was the event organized?

2. Attempts to reclassify the case of Vladimir Kozlov and Serik Sapargali. Initially they were accused of creating an organised crime group but, on the 28th of March 2012, the charges were changed to establishing a terrorist group;

3. Limiting the possibility of monitoring the Zhanaozen trials by independent media (on the 28th of March 2012, the court issued a decision by which it denied the possibility to conduct video and audio recording during the trials in the courtroom), and by international observers including the OSCE. Asel Nurgaziyeva, a head of the Atyrau division of this non-governmental organisation was delegated to the court.

4. The initiation of a criminal case on the 28th of March 2012, on charges of an allegedly planned terrorist attack for the 24th of March 2012, in Almaty by representatives of the unregistered opposition party ‘Alga!’ (Muratbek Ketebaev), led by the opponent of the current government of Kazakhstan, Mukhtar Ablyazov.

5. Oppression of the editorial staff of the ‘Golols Respubliki’ newspaper: a journalist Irina Mednikova, a publisher Daniyar Moldashev and Yulia Kozlova, the head of the publication distribution department. We are in possession of reliable information that methods of physical and psychological pressure will be used towards Daniyar Moldashev in order to make him give evidence which would be convenient for the investigation purposes.

We will elaborate on each of these cases later.