US-based watchdog Freedom House has published a report documenting alleged abuses of due process at the trial of opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov and two others charged with fomenting fatal unrest in Zhanaozen last December which left 15 dead.
The report alleges violations of the rights to a fair trial of the three defendants—Kozlov, opposition activist Serik Sapargaly and former oil worker Akzhanat Aminov, who was prominent in a labor strike that preceded the unrest. Kozlov and Aminov face three charges of fomenting social unrest; calling for the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order (tantamount to calling for the overthrow of the state); and setting up a criminal group. Sapargaly faces the first two counts.
The abuses documented by Freedom House include the denial of a defense motion to question individuals whose names have been mentioned frequently at the trial; the inclusion of testimony from prosecution witnesses whom the defense has not questioned; and the “possible falsification of testimony.”
The judge rejected a defense motion to question via Skype fugitive businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov and other figures whose names have featured prominently in the trial. Ablyazov, mentioned in the indictment as being co-leader (with Kozlov) of a criminal group set up to overthrow the state, is a political foe of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s who is currently on the run from British justice over a fraud case brought at the London High Court.
Freedom House also documented the planting of materials in Kozlov’s cell alleging that his wife had been having an affair with his lawyer. The watchdog has previously expressed concern about the trial being conducted in Kazakh, which native Russian speaker Kozlov does not speak, with what Freedom House described as “inadequate translation” into Russian.
Astana has repeatedly stressed its commitment to a fair, transparent legal process over the Zhanaozen violence.
“All the investigations have been transparent,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Altay Abibullayev said earlier this week. “All the courts procedures have been conducted openly, as the sessions are attended by relatives of the defendants, international observers, NGOs and media.”
He said Astana had “welcomed and actively encouraged” NGO involvement “in examining the tragic incident” in Zhanaozen and the judicial process.
“We are confident that the Court will issue its verdict on the cases after all the procedures are completed duly, in full accordance with the laws and justice will be done,” Abibullayev concluded.