Vladimir Kozlov, Kazakh dissident and leader of the biggest opposition party “Alga” was released from prison after nearly five years spent behind bars.
The decision on the release on parole of Kozlov was welcomed, among others, by the office of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. In its communication, a spokeperson of HR/VP Mogherini highlighted the need for the full rehabilitation and release of all those civil society activists currently detained or under restriction of movement in Kazakhstan, in line with the country’s international commitments, including the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan.
On 8 October, 2012, Vladimir Kozlov was sentenced to 7.5 years’ imprisonment, having been convicted of ‘inciting social discord’, ‘calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order’ and ‘establishing a criminal organisation’. On the basis of this sentence, the activities of the opposition party ‘Alga’ and 34 influential non-state media have been banned in Kazakhstan. They were accused of ‘inciting social discord’. The international community has recognised the verdict against Vladimir Kozlov as unfair and politically motivated.
For more than 4.5 years, Vladimir Kozlov has been held in custody. He has been subjected to ill-treatment, and his health condition has deteriorated significantly. From December 2012 to March 2014, Kozlov was illegally detained in prison which wasn’t located near his place of residence – in Petropavlovsk (Kazakhstan Siberia). In March 2014, the political prisoner was transferred to a colony in the Zarechnoye village (Almaty Province). For some time, Kozlov was held in solitary confinement, and on 27 July, 2015, he was transferred to a unit with strict conditions of detention, where he was held for over a year.
In the period between December 2015 and February 2016, Kazakh courts have repeatedly denied the tranfer of Kozlov to the usual conditions of detention and his release on parole. On 2 August, 2016, he eventually achieved his tranfer to the usual conditions of detention, and subsequently, on 4 August, 2016, the court granted his petition for early release.
The international campaign for the release of the Kazakh political prisoner was led by the Open Dialogue Foundation. For the last four years, the Foundation has been organizing missions and visits of politicians from the EU member states to Kazakhstan. The Foundation has been intervening also at the level of the international organizations, the EU, OSCE and the UN, presenting studies and reports on human rights violations in Kazakhstan. Moreover, after its advocacy, the European politicians and public officials haven been intervening, both, at the Kazakh authorities to release Kozlov, as well as the heads of prisons to respect his rights.
The case of Kozlov was raised by numerous non-governmental organizations, international organizations and Members of the national and European Parliaments, including: Chair Isabel Santos and Vice-Chair Ivana Dobesova of the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Polish Delegations of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and the European People’s Party Group in the European Parliament and individual MEPs: Tomas Zdechovsky, Ana Gomes, Rebecca Harms, Tunne Kelam, Sandra Kalniete, Heidi Hautala and Fernando Maura Barandiarán.
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