Prisoners’ campaigner, Vadim Kuramshin, arrested twice in 3 days
The finance house BTA Ipoteka, well-known in Kazakhstan, whose image has now become firmly tarnished by suicides and the attempts to evict families with children from their homes is taking legal action against the ‘Leave People’s Homes Alone’ (LPHA) campaign, on the accusation of “refusal to obey [the law]”. They have taken this action following another unsuccessful attempt to evict the Sailybaev family. The case was immediately passed on to the DVD (police) , whose investigator, Ukanbek Abulkhair, started calling in practically all participants in the campaign demanding that they give evidence against Esenbek Ukteshbaev and Ainur Kurmanov. Now it has been revealed that the city mayor’s office (Akimat) has been actively “helping” the investigation, calling in members of the LPHA and offering all sorts of “benefits”, if they give evidence against the leaders of the campaign and well-known socialists.
Solidarity protest of the Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), including Paul Murphy, MEP, on 15 August 2011
Abulkhair is demanding that people testify against the two, claiming they gave an order for locks on the house to be broken (to defend the home) as part of the act of resistance. But campaigners have written complaints to the police, the prosecutor’s office and even the KNB. For example, Shara Chaltabaeva has several times requested the protocol of her questioning, as during her interrogation the investigator several times, either in Kazakh or in Russian languages, tried to persuade her to act against the campaign.
In some cases, knowing that their health was poor, the investigator drove people into such a state that they could barely read the text of the protocols. This happened, for example, with Bolatom Zhamanbalin, who, suffering from heart problems, was forced to sit for two hours in a smoke filled, stuffy room with the investigator. In the case of Aliyam Turdieva, the questioning was about how she obtained credit in the first place, and trying to persuade her that that Esenbek Ukteshbayev was “setting her up”, putting her in a position where she would end up paying fines. These attempts to frighten people and fabricate evidence is clearly no more than an attempt to pressurize the campaign even further.
Mayor’s office role
But the role played by the mayor’s office is even more blatant. Now campaigners are being told that their problems with the banks will be “sorted out” if the give evidence against Ainur and Esen. Now it seems the mayor’s office has decided to act as both investigator and prosecutor, at the same time. For this reason, the LPHA is planning to step up their campaign and will next week be holding a press conference.
At the same time, the regime is clearly trying to silence Vadim Kuramshin, the prisoner rights’ campaigner. While travelling through Almaty, last weekend, he was stopped by traffic police and told he was “wanted”. He was then arrested. During his short stay, Vadim was told that he was suspected of “organizing a criminal group”. This is a consequence of his campaign to defend a group of prisoners who have been framed by prison authorities for organizing a prison protest against torture and mistreatment. Although Vadim was released after a few hours, he was arrested again the following day, this time led away in handcuffs. Once again, the authorities obviously lacked confidence, because Vadim was again released.
Nevertheless, all these cases indicate that the regime is trying to silence the opposition not through the use of “administrative charges” that carry a maximum sentence of 15 days but now by fabricated “criminal charges”. Nataliya Sokolova, the lawyer for striking oil workers, has received a draconian 6 years sentence for “inciting social conflict”. Aside from Vadim, Ainur and Esenbek, action is being threatened against a further seven members of the LPHA campaign. The cases are already being taken up by international bodies, such as Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch, and have now been referred to the United Nations Reporter for Human Rights. If any further moves are made by the authorities, a major international campaign to put pressure on the Kazakhstan government will be launched.