Basic rights must be respected

On March 10, MEPs in Strasbourg agreed an important condemnation of the Nazarbayev regime’s treatment of political prisoners. The president has brought forward the general election due later in the year to March 20. As usual it will be totally rigged but his aim is to try and claim a renewed ‘legitimacy’ and avoid mass protests when he steps up his programme of new privatisations and steep price rises. Once again this dictator will want the workers and poor people of Kazakhstan to pay for the difficulties brought about by the fall in world oil prices!

Over the years, many who oppose the dictatorship have been jailed. Administrative detention for two or three weeks is liberally doled out to those who organise or participate in protests – on the streets or on-line! Those who organise strikes or opposition parties can be sent down for years.

Vladimir Kozlov, mentioned in the European Parliamentary debate, was the leader of an opposition bourgeois party, Alga. While the CWI has fundamental political disagreements with Alga, we stand for the defence of democratic rights. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison soon after the December 2011 massacre of oil-workers in Zhanaozen. His ‘crimes’ were ’inciting social discord’, making ’calls for the overthrow of the constitutional order’ and ’the establishment of a criminal organisation’.

Vadim Kuramshin was a lawyer who exposed the barbaric treatment of simple criminals in Kazakhstan’s prisons. In his trial on false charges of extortion, a jury actually found him innocent. He was released, only to be re-arrested and imprisoned for 12 years in a ‘strict regime’ colony.

Aron Atabek, a writer and poet, was involved with hundreds of protesters in the struggle to save a shanty town called Shanyrak from destruction by bull-dozers in 2006. He was arrested and accused of killing a policeman and sent down for no less than 18 years. ‘Witnesses’ in his trial later confessed to being blackmailed to give false evidence against Aron, but no retrial has been granted.

The resolution discussed in Strasbourg alludes to the deteriorating situation for journalists and activists in Kazakhstan. It points to the regime being particularly sensitive in the run-up to ‘Expo 2017’ - the International Fair in Astana, the country’s capital. A model resolution to send to the Kazakhstan authorities, supporting the demands of the Europarliamentarians in relation to the three named political prisoners, and going further to demand their release, can be found on the web-site of Campaign Kazakhstan HERE.

The imprisoned activists and their legal representatives would like to see copies of these resolutions and they would be particularly encouraged by a flood of personal letters to them at the addresses also given there.

Committee for a workers' International publications

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