Kazakhstan: New wave of arrests against opposition

Release Vadim Kuramshin and all those arrested – End harassment of opposition activists!

Following the fraudulent parliamentary elections on 15th January, a new wave of arrests of opposition figures, social activists and journalists is sweeping Kazakhstan.

Continuing their revengeful campaign against the oil workers in West Kazakhstan, the authorities have started to arrest those wounded when the police opened fire on the unarmed strikers and supporters on 16 December. It is reported that a list of up to a hundred of those still in hospital are to be charged with taking part in mass disorder and some have already been removed from their beds.

The liberal opposition party, Alga, has come under particular attack. On 23 January, its leader Vladimir Kozlov, and a number of activists were arrested, their homes searched and computers removed. The ‘Committee for National Security’ claimed that they are being investigated on charges related to calling for the overthrow of the current government and inciting social discord, charges that carry up to ten years in prison.

A number of media outlets have also been attacked. The editor of the newspaper, Vzglyad, Igor Vinyavskii, was arrested and reporters and technical operators from Stan TV and staff at the newspaper ‘Respublika’ are wanted for questioning.

Crude attempt by regime

The repression against Alga and its partners in the ‘People’s Front’ are a crude attempt by the regime to divert attention from their responsibility for the shootings, by blaming “outside influences”, specifically the oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who lives in London and who finances Alga. This is despite the fact that none of these forces were involved in organizing a peaceful demonstration by oil workers on 16 December. Although we do not share the political position of Alga and the People’s Front, the CWI is nevertheless opposed to the repressive actions of this increasingly authoritarian government.

This is particularly as attacks have also been made against the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan. On the same day as the arrests of the Alga activists, attempts were made by police to raid the office of the ‘Leave People’s Homes Alone’ campaign but activists refused to open the doors to the police as they did not show necessary warrants.

SMK members, Vadim Karamshin and Arman Ozhaubaev, were also arrested on the 23 January. Vadim, a well-known prison rights campaigner, is being charged with “extortion”, although Arman was later released as a “witness”. This follows the case in the Kordaiskii region of the country, where a representatives of the Procuror’s office was filmed taking a bribe of $7000. Anna Kuzmina is a small trader whose van was illegally “arrested” after crossing the border from Kirghizia until the agreed bribe was paid. Vadim, in his capacity as human rights campaigner, was asked to represent Kuzmina, who was prepared to drop any charges against the bribe-takers if the money was returned. Even though the payment of the bribe was filmed http://www.socialismkz.info/news/2012-01-24-2156, it is Vadim who is now being accused of a crime!

The CWI demands the immediate release of Vadim Karamshin and all others who have been arrested.

Please send urgent protests to the Embassy of Kazakhstan in your country or to the nearest Embassy to you, and to the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry email: mid@mid.kz.

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January 2012