HARASSMENT OF OPPOSITION LEADERS, MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS
The government has pressed politically motivated criminal or misdemeanor charges not only against opposition party leaders, but also their members and supporters. In some cases these charges prevented those individuals from running for public office. Under the current Law on Elections,those convicted of misdemeanor violations during the year preceding the elections or those who have not yet served out sentences conferred as a result of criminal convictions are prohibited from standing for election.169 In a positive move, the Kazakh parliament adopted an amendment to the Law on Elections dropping restrictions to the ballot for those who have been convicted of misdemeanor offenses.
Fourteen cases documented in March-April 2003 show how the authorities have targeted members and supporters of two the most dynamic and well-funded opposition groups, the DVK and the Republican People’s Party of Kazakhstan (RNPK). The government has pressed civil and criminal charges against them for distributing their groups’ press releases, holding unsanctioned meetings, and participating in peaceful demonstrations. In some cases, grounds for civil or criminal charges were simply fabricated against people in retaliation for their support of or affiliation with the opposition.
Igor Kolov was charged with a violation of the administrative code (a misdemeanor offense) just days after he became head of the DVK’s Kostanai province branch in early January 2003. The facts suggest that the charges were a tactic to prevent him from participating in the 2003 maslikhat (local council) elections.
On January 6, 2003, Kolov, a city council deputy in Rudny since 2000, organized an open meeting on community services issues in the city. The meeting, held in the Druzhba cinema, was so well-attended that some in the crowd spill out onto the street. Later that day, authorities charged and convicted Kolov with a violation of Article 373 of the Administrative Code, on organizing unsanctioned meetings. The charge carried a fine of 8,600 tenge (approximately U.S.$56.00).170 Kolov claimed that local authorities had brought the charge against him because he was a member of DVK. 171
Kolov described other harassment linked to his membership in the DVK, including questioning by the KNB when he became a member, and verbal pressure exerted by employers on his family members. The akimat172 also intimidates people to dissuade them from joining parties like the DVK:
Ludmilla Artiukova, deputy DVK leader in Pavlodar, was arbitrarily dismissed from her government post in Ekibastuz and later convicted of abuse of office on politically motivated grounds. As a result, she was ineligible to stand as a candidate in the fall 2003 maslikhat elections.174
A dubious criminal case followed. Artiukova continued to work in the akimat in Ekibastuz, but on February 4, 2002, the Ekibastuz procuracy laid charges of abuse of office against her, and at the end of that month she was “temporarily” released from her professional duties “while the investigation was ongoing.”176 The charges concerned Artiukova’s alleged underpayments for her stay in a hotel in Ekibastuz when she was transferred from the civil service in Semipalatinsk to Ekibastuz.177 Artiukova stated that during the entire period of her stay in the hotel she had regularly paid the fee she was charged by the deputy akim of Ekibastuz, not once had the hotel management made objections. Expert financial reviews of case documents were also unable to establish the precise sum said to be owed by Artiukova.178 After almost twelve months of investigation, however, on March 25, 2003, Artiukova was given a one-year suspended sentence for abuse of office under Article 307 of the criminal code.179 An appeals court upheld the verdict on April 9, 2003.180
The government also prohibited Gennadii Bondarenko, DVK branch leader in Pavlodar, from contesting the 2003 maslikhat and 2004 parliamentary elections. In retaliation for Bondarenko’s activities in the DVK, authorities convicted him on criminal charges, launched a civil libel case against him, and threatened to charge him with a misdemeanor offense.
In June 2002, Bondarenko and DVK colleague Nurlan Zhuldasov were protesting the repeated police interrogation of Zhakianov against doctors’ orders in May and June 2002.181 The two men picketed the police station responsible for the Zhakianov case, and distributed written materials. The Pavlodar procuracy charged Bondarenko and Zhuldasov with “interference in court proceedings and the criminal investigation”182 and “slander committed against the investigator during the pre-trial investigation.”183 Both men received two-year suspended sentences on these charges.184
Earlier, in March 2002, Pavlodar authorities had served Bondarenko with an official warning threatening a misdemeanor penalty following his organization of an “unsanctioned meeting” for Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin (a member of parliament) and party members.185 Meeting participants were forced on March 2, 2003, to meet in a city square in Pavlodar after several private firms or organizations refused to rent them space for an indoor gathering, citing inadequate facilities or ongoing renovations.186
In November 2002, Evgeniy Kravets, a member of the DVK in Pavlodar city, was convicted and fined 1,646 tenge (about U.S. $11) for violating Article 350 of the administrative code, on the illegal distribution of unregistered published materials.187 In September 2002, Kravets had been distributing DVK press releases about 500 meters from the DVK office in Pavlodar when a policeman detained him, brought him to a nearby police station, and seized the press releases.188
At the beginning of May 2003, Kravets was once again detained by police in Pavlodar and accused of distributing unregistered published materials, in this case the opposition newspapers Assandi Times, Soz, and Pravda Kazakhstana. 189
On July 2, 2003, police in Trudny detained Adilzhan Kinzhegaleev, a member of both DVK and the Communist Party while he was distributing free copies of the opposition newspapers Assandi Times and Soz, stating that he was “illegally distributing illegal publications.” Police detained Kinzhegaleev in a police station downtown, then brought him to a “sobering-up point” situated on the outskirts of the city, where they demanded to know where he had obtained the newspapers and why he was distributing them. The agents denied Kinzhegaleev’s request to make a phone call, and released him after approximately two hours.190
Natalia S., a pensioner and DVK member in Pavlodar, was charged with a misdemeanor violation in October 2002 for alleged illegal distribution of DVK press releases. She told Human Rights Watch that two policemen detained her on October 2 at the entrance to an apartment building, where she was distributing the materials. 192 The Pavlodar City Court on November 12 convicted her for “illegal distribution of unregistered published materials,” fining her 1,646 tenge (about U.S.$11).193
Amirzhan Qosanov, RNPK executive committee chairman, was convicted of tax evasion and document forgery in October 2003 on apparently politically motivated charges. As a result, he is unable to contest parliamentary elections scheduled for 2004.194
On September 11, 2003, the Almaty city procuracy filed charges on tax evasion and document forgery against Qosanov under Articles 222 and 325 of the criminal code. 195 He faced up to three and a half years in prison under these charges.196
Qosanov is also the head of a nongovernmental organization, Reform, that conducts research, training, and seminars on political and civil society issues. He told Human Rights Watch that on November 6, 2002, Almaty tax police accused Reform of failing to pay taxes on grants received from international organizations between 1998 and 2002.197 During that period, however, Qosanov claimed that tax officials conducted successful quarterly and yearly complex audits of Reform and that the organization paid, as required, approximately U.S.$10,000 in income and social security taxes.198 The government held that approximately U.S$21,000 was outstanding, and that Qosanov’s failure to pay these taxes was intentional. The assertion was based on a disputed understanding of Reform as a commercial entity, rather than a nonprofit organization, and on a disputed assumption that Qosanov was aware of activities by Reform that might qualify it as a commercial entity.199
Tax police filed additional criminal charges against Qosanov on January 13, 2003, for alleged falsification of two checks for U.S.$700 each, issued by Reform in payment for catering services used in March 1999.200 The timing of the charges, fully four years after the alleged incident took place, together with threats against Qosanov’s colleague, RNPK press secretary Almira Kusainova, during the pre-trial investigation, point to a political motivation. 201
On October 13, 2003, a court handed Qosanov a one-year suspended sentence under Articles 222 and 324 of the criminal code, and ordered him to pay a fine of 131,000 tenge [approximately U.S.$882].202
Jumabai Dospanov has been chairman of the RNPK branch in western Atyrau province since 1998. He is also a journalist and owner of the opposition newspapers Vecherniy Atyrau (Evening Atyrau) and Altyn gasyr (The Golden Century). Since 2001, he has been harassed twice in connection to his opposition political activities and media work. 203
Dospanov was an RNPK candidate in the December 2002 parliamentary by-elections, and suffered an attempt on his life during the run-up to the elections.204
In 2001-2002, when Dospanov was editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Vecherniy Atyrau, he lost a civil libel case for having published derogatory information about the Atyrau province akim. Dospanov refused to pay a punitive fine of 2 million tenge [about U.S.$13,300], and in 2002 two criminal cases were instigated against him for failure to pay that fine. As a result, Dospanov was prohibited from traveling outside Atyrau for five months. On July 19, 2002, police forcibly removed Dospanov from the plane on which he was to travel to Almaty to attend a National Democratic Institute (NDI) seminar on political party development.205
Most recently, in mid-June 2003, Dospanov traveled to Almaty to attend a meeting on a proposed referendum on the controversial land reform law.206 Dospanov asserted that, in an effort to prevent him from attending the session, police and National Security Service agents on the train checked his personal identification documents four times and carefully searched his belongings.207 Dospanov also alleged that Atyrau authorities had coerced at least eight of the group of thirty-four who traveled to Almaty to write statements denying they had attended the meeting.
Adilkhan Ramazanov, chairman of the Almaty city branch of the RNPK, claims that since 1999 he has been charged with a yearly average of four to six misdemeanor offenses, mostly for organizing or participating in unsanctioned meetings.208
For example, on November 13, 2002, approximately forty persons gathered in front of an opera house in downtown Almaty for close to forty minutes, carrying umbrellas with the word “Duvanov” (the journalist, charged with rape) When the crowd dispersed, Ramazanov returned to his car, carrying a bundle of umbrellas. Ramazanov was immediately tried and convicted and fined 16,460 tenge [approximately U.S.$110] for having organized an unsanctioned meeting. Ramazanov paid the fine. Sixteen days later, however, he learned that the Almalinsk district procurator had appealed the court’s sentence as too light and that the case had been forwarded to the Almaty City Court for further examination.209
Ramazanov told Human Rights Watch that he saw the administrative fine as retaliation for his links with Kazhegeldin and as a means for authorities to keep him off the ballot as a candidate in September 2003 local council elections 210
Ramazanov also told Human Rights Watch that after he participated in a protest march in Almaty on June 14, 2003 calling for a referendum on the controversial land law, a procuracy official threatened him with five to ten days of administrative arrest. 211
Maira Obenova has been harassed repeatedly in connection with her RNPK and NGO work. In October 2002 she organized a series of seminars on the reinstitution of the Constitutional Court212 in the cities of Semipalatinsk and Ust-Kamenogorsk. In Ust-Kamenogorsk, where she led the seminar together with KIBHRL, the fifty-odd participants had just sat down in a room in a private building rented for the occasion, when the building security guards expelled them from the premises, without providing an explanation. With no other options, the group assembled in a park close-by. The gathering in the park was monitored closely by police who then detained and penalized some of the seminar’s participants for holding an unsanctioned meeting.213
Also in October 2002, when Obenova was attending a DVK national congress in Almaty, law enforcement agents took advantage of her absence to harass Obenova’s family.214
In June 2002, Maira Obenova was the subject of an investigation and politically motivated prosecution brought by local authorities for her participation in a committee to protect Galymzhan Zhakianov and Mukhtar Abliazov. Police enquired with Obenova about the activities of the committee, asked who had advised Obenova to become a member of the committee, and confiscated copies of Articles published in the local newspaper Menin Kazakhstanym (My Kazakhstan) and press releases on events surrounding Zhakianov in Pavlodar.215 The procuracy accused Obenova of illegal distribution of unregistered materials,216 but the court dropped the charges due to lack of evidence.217
Persons who engage in political opposition activities risk arbitrary dismissal from work and threats from and surveillance by law enforcement agents.
In Mangistau province, the akim himself allegedly issued orders to have Mukhtar Umbetov, head of the Mangistau branch of RNPK, dismissed from his post at the Mangistau Atomic Energy Industrial Complex (MAEK) in Aktau in February 2003. When the move was made to dismiss him, Umbetov had been employed at MAEK for twenty-two years, and had never received a professional reprimand. He told Human Rights Watch he had been informed by colleagues from the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions that his dismissal was in retaliation for his political activities:
Encouraged by the significant outcry by local political activists, Umbetov contested his dismissal in court, which on May 15, 2003, ruled in his favor. 219
Authorities nonetheless continue to actively seek to stop Umbetov’s political involvement. In June 20, 2003, procuracy officials told Umbetov that he should close the Mangistau RNPK branch as it was unregistered. He refused. On June 27, Umbetov was questioned by procuracy officials, who demanded a list of RNPK members, told Umbetov that he was being monitored by the police, and ordered that Umbetov close down the Mangistau RNPK branch due to its “illegal operations.”220 Umbetov alleged that these steps were designed to prevent RNPK members from participating in the upcoming elections.221
Marat Januzakov, DVK branch leader since July 2002 in Kokshetau, Akmolinsk province, had worked for sixteen years as a professor of Russian language and literature in Sh. Ualikhanov Kokshetau State University. He had no administrative or professional complaints on his record. On January 27, 2003, however, he was suddenly dismissed for having committed a “serious violation of labor discipline” after having been absent from work for three days in October 2002 to attend a DVK congress in Almaty. Januzakov filed a suit against the university on charges of arbitrary dismissal, but lost the case in the Koskhetau City Court on May 4, 2003.222 Januzakov has appealed the decision to the regional court.223
Januzakov explained to Human Rights Watch that the judge’s decision appeared to have been politically motivated, as had the original decision to dismiss him. During the period of his absence in October 2003, Januzakov had no courses or exams to oversee, and had submitted written notification of leave without specifying the three days in question.224 Januzakov told Human Rights Watch that the procurator, and his assistant harassed his students, “asking them whether I had been at the DVK congress in Almaty.”225 Januzakov also told Human Rights Watch about previous and ongoing interference by authorities in DVK activities in Kokshetau, including instances when law enforcement agents confiscated DVK press releases and opposition newspapers such as Delovoye Obozreniye Respublika.226 Authorities have also repeatedly denied a license to Januzakov’s newspaper Zerkalo (The Mirror).227
Marina Sabitova is the head of the nongovernmental organization Democratic Assistance Center and a DVK member and an academic at the Karaganda branch of the Russia-Kazakhstan Humanitarian University. She was dismissed from her post at the university in 2002.
She told Human Rights Watch that she believed her dismissal was linked to the Democratic Assistance Center’s participation in an NGO campaign calling for review of amendments to the Law on Mass Media. Immediately following the campaign, the local procuracy and the KNB summoned her for questioning about her NGO’s activities.228 A financial audit of Sabitova’s department at the university was conducted at the same time as the procuracy’s investigation and provided a pretext for her removal from the university.229
Karaganda government officials and managers at the workplaces of Sabitova’s relatives put pressure on her family members immediately after Sabitova attended the DVK congress in Almaty on January 20, 2002. The province akim summoned Sabitova’s mother, a professor at the Karaganda State University, for a “visit,” reportedly stating, “Please have Marina write a statement to the effect that she attended the DVK meeting just by chance.”230 Sabitova’s husband, an employee at a law institute in Karaganda, was also summoned by his management for questioning about his wife’s involvement with the DVK soon after January 20.231
Government officials prevent activists from organizing and attending opposition party gatherings by threatening them, placing them under invasive or intimidating surveillance, or even physically obstructing their travel. Authorities also harass activists for their media activities.
In at least two separate incidents authorities, tried to prevent DVK supporters from attending a DVK congress in Almaty, held in October 2002. Members of the nongovernmental pensioners’ organization Pokoleniie [The Generation] are among those who were physically prevented from traveling to the gathering. In October 2002, police forcibly removed seventy-two-year-old Claudia Svintsova, the Karaganda branch leader of Pokoleniie, from a train as she traveled from Karaganda to Almaty to attend the DVK congress, and sent her back to Karaganda.232
DVK activists in Western Kazakhstan province who planned to attend the same congress in Almaty in October 2002 discovered that employees at the Uralsk railway station ticket booth possessed a list containing names of DVK supporters and had instructions to call a certain phone number should those on the list attempt to buy a railway ticket. When DVK activists subsequently called the number, KNB agents answered. The Western Kazakhstan branch of the DVK subsequently held a press conference to publicize this information, but a KNB agent present alleged that the information had been fabricated.233
In July 2002, police charged Iskanderbek Torbekov, head of the Jambyl province branch of the RNPK, with illegal possession of narcotics. Torbekov was detained by police on a train while traveling to Almaty to attend a political party training session organized by the National Democratic Institute.234 According to Torbekov, the law enforcement agents planted drugs on his person, charged him with illegal possession of narcotics, and released him only after the training session ended.235 After a three-month-long criminal investigation, however, the court ruled that Torbekov was not guilty, as the quantity of drugs found on his person was insufficient to constitute a criminal charge. “But the goal of the provocateurs’ action was the following, not to let me get to last year’s central committee party meeting,” claimed Torbekov.236
Numerous participants of the January 20, 2002, DVK-led opposition meetingin Almaty were systematically interrogated by KNB and other government officials immediately following the meeting. In Karaganda, sixty-four-year-old pensioner Lidia Mikhailovna received a visit at home from representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs not long after having attended the January meeting. The purpose and timing of their visit was suspicious, she said, because “ostensibly they came to check whether we were eligible for benefits, but they said that the DVK is bad, and they had us a sign a document that we had attended the DVK meeting, and they wanted to know what we talked about at the meeting, what we voted for...”237 In Astana, pensioner Albert N. also asserted that five activists who had attended the January gathering had been questioned afterwards by KNB agents, and that at least one of the five had been asked to sign a statement indicating that her participation in the meeting was unintentional.238
169 Constitution Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan, September 28, 1995, art. 4(1-3).
170 Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Kolov, Almaty, April 1, 2003; telephone interview, June 27, 2003. Kolov said that the administrative violation concerned a failure to obtain permission to hold the meeting in that location.
171 Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Kolov, Almaty, April 1, 2003.
172 The akimat is the office of the local executive or akim, the governor of a province or district or mayor of a town.
173 Ibid. Human Rights Watch interview with Igor Kolov, Almaty, April 1, 2003.
174 Artiukova told Human Rights Watch that she had intended to run in the September 2003 local elections. Human Rights Watch interview with Ludmilla Artiukova, Pavlodar, April 17, 2003.
175 Ibid. Ludmilla Artiukova, “Skazhi mne, kto tvoi akim, i ia skazhu, kto ty...” (Tell me who your akim is, and I’ll tell you who you are) Pravda Kazakhstana [Astana], No. 9, April 4, 2003. Artiukova was head of the Ekibastuz akim’s staff, and thus technically a member of Zhakianov’s Pavlodar provincial administration. From 1995-1997, she occupied a high-ranking position in Zhakianov’s Semipalatinsk provincial administration.
176 Human Rights Watch interview with Ludmilla Artiukova, Pavlodar, April 17, 2003. Artiukova was eventually permanently dismissed.
177 In 1999, when Artiukova was transferred, she was offered housing in a hotel owned by the Ekibastuz akimat until such time as an appropriate residence could be found. The hotel had been legally registered as an apartment. Artiukova paid 97,339 tenge [about U.S.$ 650] over a period of four years between 1999 and 2002, the apartment rental price established under government communal works’ guidelines. The prosecution argued that she owed the government 408,567 tenge [about U.S. $ 2,700], the difference between the price of a hotel apartment and private apartment, according to communal works’ guidelines. “Pavlodarskaia oblast. Bolshaia ‘zachistka’ prodolzhaetsa. Ugolovnoe delo No. 0232120100012” (Pavlodar oblast. The big “purge” continues. Criminal case No. No. 0232120100012) DVK Pavlodar province press release, April 2, 2003.
178 “Pavlodarskaia oblast’. Bolshaia ‘zachistka’ prodolzhaetsa,” (Pavlodar Province. The Great ‘Clean-up Operation’ Continues) DVK Pavlodar province press release, April 2, 2003; Ludmilla Artiukova, “Skazhi mne, kto tvoi akim, i ia skazhu, kto ty...”
179 Verdict of the Ekisbastuz city court, Case no. 1148, March 25, 2003.
180 Decision of the Ekibastuz city court, Judge G.G. Sagidenov, April 9, 2003; “Zakaz vypolnen!” (The order has been carried out!) DVK Pavlodar province press release, May 4, 2003.
181 Letter from Zhakianov’s lawyer, Elena Rebenchuk, to the General Procurator, May 20, 2002; DVK press release “Zhakianov v reanimatsii” [Zhakianov in Intensive Care], May 20, 2002. See section on Galymzhan Zhakianov.
182 Article 339(2) of the criminal code.
183 Article 343(2) of the criminal code. Verdict of the Pavlodar City Court, Judge Adlet Baktiarov, November 4, 2002. According to the verdict, Bondorenko and Zhuldasov from June 6-21 led a picket in front of the office of the investigator, police colonel I.K. Kusainov, carrying posters with Kusainov’s photograph on them, and distributed printed materials bearing Kusainov’s photograph.
184 Verdict of the Pavlodar city court, Judge Adlet Baktiarov, November 4, 2002.
185 Communist Party colleague Zoia Kozhanova was also served the court warning.
186 Human Rights Watch interview with Zoi Kozhanova, Pavlodar, April 16, 2003.
187 An appeals court upheld the ruling on December 12, 2002. Decision of the Pavlodar Province Court, Judge L.I. Paramonova, December 12, 2002. Under the law on mass media, publications which are issued either periodically or on a regular basis, have a permanent title, current issue number, and are issued in more than once every six months in the amount of no less than 100 copies, are required to have registration. Arts. 1(2,3), 12(2,3), Law on Mass Media. No. 451-1, July 23, 1999. The DVK press releases do not fit this definition.
188 Human Rights Watch interview with Evgeniy Kravets, Pavlodar, April 16, 2003.
189 International Foundation for Protection of Speech “Adil Soz,” “Politseiskie Pavlodara zapreshchaiut rasprostraniat’ gazety ‘Asandi Taims’, ‘Soz’ i ‘Pravda Kazakhstana’ “(Pavlodar police block the distribution of the “Asandi Times,” “Soz” and “Pravda Kazakhstana” newspapers), May 2003 [online] http://www.adilsoz.kz/hot_news/2003/05/page1.htm (retrieved May 25, 2003).
190 Igor Kolov, DVK press release, Rudny, July 3, 2003.
191 Not her true name.
192 Human Rights Watch interview with Natalia S., Pavlodar, April 17, 2003.
193 Article 350 of the administrative code.
194 This is not the first time the government has harassed Qosanov. In 2001, officials prevented him from traveling to the U.S. to testify before the U.S. Congress on human rights conditions in Central Asia. In 1998, Qosanov was reportedly beaten by unidentified masked persons in the run-up to the 1999 parliamentary and presidential elections. See Human Rights Watch, World Report 2002 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2002), p. 325; and “Freedom of the Media and Political Freedoms in the Prelude to the 1999 Elections” A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 11, no. 11(D), October 1999, p. 28.
195 RNPK press release, “Ugolovnoe delo Amirzhana Qosanova peredaetsa v sud” (Amirzhan Qosanov’s criminal case goes to court), September 11, 2003.
196 “O nalogakh I drugikh ob’iazatel’nikh platezhakh v biudget” (Law on Taxes and Other Obligatory Budget Payments), arts. 15(3), (34(3). Appeal from Reform to the Tax Committee of the Ministry of Finance, November 19, 2002. Human Rights Watch interview with Almira Kosainova, RNPK press-secretary, Almaty, April 2, 2003. Criminal Code of Kazakhstan, art. 222 [online], http://pavlodar.com/zakon/index.html?dok=00087&all=all (retrieved June 23, 2003) and art. 325 [online], http://pavlodar.com/zakon/index.html?dok=00087&all=all (retrieved June 23, 2003).
197 Written appeal from Reform to the Tax Committee of the Ministry of Finance, November 19, 2002.
198 Human Rights Watch interviews with Amirzhan Qosanov, New York, January 31, 2003, and Almaty, March 31 and August 7, 2003.
Tax police regularly bring cases against government critics, including RNPK members. A criminal case for tax evasion has also been recently instigated against Emurat Bapi, who is editor-in-chief of Soldat and an RNPK member. Bapi was given a one-year prison sentence in 2001 for having insulted the honor and dignity of the President Nazarbaev following publication in 2000 of Articles on Kazakhgate in Soldat. Human Rights Watch interview with Emurat Bapi, Almaty, August 8, 2003; RNPK press releases, “V Kazakhstane ozhidaetsa dva gromkikh politicheskikh sudebnikh protsessa” (Two Big Political Trials Expected in Kazakhstan), August 29, 2003; “Pochemu forsiruiutsa ugolovnie dela v otnoshenii Amirzhan Kosanova i Emurata Bapi?” (Why are criminal cases against Amirzhan Qosanov and Emurat Bapi being speeded up?), July 1, 2003. On November 17, 2003, the Medeusk district court handed Bapi a one-year suspended sentence on charges of illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and document forgery (Articles 192, 218 and 222 of the criminal code, respectively). Bapi is to pay 9 million tenge in outstanding taxes [approximately U.S.$62,000], a fine of 21,000 tenge [approximately U.S.$143.00], and is forbidden from engaging in publishing activities for the next five years. KIBHRL Monitoring, November 18, 2003.
199 Qosanov’s defense refuted the charges, arguing that de facto Reform was a non-commercial organization, and that the prosecution had failed to specify both particular legislation violated by Reform and precise sums of tax unpaid based on tax legislation that had undergone regular amendments between 1998 and 2002. Comments of lawyer I. Meerzon, and final speech of Amirzhan Qosanov, Medeusk district court, Almaty, October 10, 2003 [online], http://www.zhakiyanov.info/inner.php?offset=10 (retrieved October 14, 2003).
200 The catering services were engaged for celebrations held by Reform on March 8, International Women’s Day, and during Navruz, an annual holiday in Central Asia which celebrates the beginning of spring. Human Rights Watch interview with Amira Kosainova, RNPK press-secretary, Almaty, April 2, 2003.
201 Human Rights Watch interview with Almira Kusainova, RNPK press-secretary, Almaty, April 2, 2003. Investigators on the case violated procedural norms during the pre-trial investigation when they issued verbal threats to, and requested “informal discussions” from, Ms. Kusainova. She told Human Rights Watch that during one interrogation session in the first quarter of 2003 an investigator had warned her that judicial authorities had not yet decided whether she herself or Qosanov would be imprisoned.
202 RNPK press release, “V Kazakhstane poiavilsia esche odin politicheskii osuzhdeniy” (Another political conviction in Kazakhstan), October 13, 2003.
203 Human Rights Watch interview with Jumabai Dospanov, Atyrau, August 4, 2003. The most recent civil case concerns a violation of the Law on Mass Media, a case Dospanov argues constitutes retaliation for Altyn Gasyr’s -- his newspaper – coverage of Kazakhgate.
204 See below, “December 2002 parliamentary elections.”
205 Ibid.; Human Rights Watch interview with Tomas Brydle, director, NDI, Almaty, March 28, 2003.
206 On June 14, 2003, approximately 550 persons from Kazakhstan’s fourteen administrative regions gathered in Almaty and elected a committee to work towards a referendum on the country’s controversial land privatization bill, adopted on June 20, 2003. Opposition to the bill, which critics say will enrich the wealthy, has led to major reshuffles in government, including the June 11 resignation of prime minister Imangali Tasmagambetov. Daria Mustafina, “Referendum – protses proshel” (The Referendum – the Process is Underway), June 19, 2003 [online], http://www.zhakiyanov.info/inner.php?menuid=6&show=1892 (retrieved June 20, 2003); Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Adilkhan Ramazanov, June 16 and 20, 2003.
207 Electronic communication from Jumabai Dospanov, June 20, 2003. Human Rights Watch interview with Jumabai Dospanov, Atyrau, August 4, 2003.
208 Ramazanov stated, however, that the charges had led to only six convictions. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Adilkhan Ramazanov, June 16, 2003.
209 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Adilkhan Ramazanov, June 16 and 20, 2003; Oksana Lisitskaia, “Mest’ za zontiki,” (Revenge for the Umbrellas) SolDat [Almaty], No. 24(82), December, 2002.
210 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Adilkhan Ramazanov, June 16, 2003.
211 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Adilkhan Ramazanov, June 16 and 20, 2003.
212 The Constitutional Court was abolished in 1995.
213 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maira Obenova, June 16, 2003. Obenova did not state whether officials attempted to lay charges against her during these incidents.
215 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Maira Obenova, June 16 and 23, 2003, and electronic mail communication with Maira Obenova, June 23, 2003.
216 Art. 342 of the Civil Code.
217 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maira Obenova, June 23, 2003.
218 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, and electronic communication with Mukhtar Umbetov, June 30 and July 5, 2003, respectively. Umbetov is also vice-president of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan.
220 Ibid. The RNPK has boycotted re-registration in protest against the restrictions of the new law on political parties. Under the law, official closure of a political party requires either that a party hold a congress to vote itself closed, and then apply for closure to the Ministry of Justice; or that the government itself issue a court order to close the party on the grounds of lack of registration. Neither of these steps has been taken with regard to the RNPK.
221 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mukhtar Umbetov, June 30, 2003.
222 Human Rights Watch interview with Marat Januzakov, Almaty, April 1, 2003, and electronic communication, July 7, 2003.
223 Electronic communication from Marat Januzakov, July 7, 2003.
225 Human Rights Watch interview with Marat Januzakov, Almaty, April 1, 2003.
226Ibid. Delovoye Obozreniye Respublika (Republican Business Survey) was the predecessor to Assandi Times, known for its critical coverage of the government.
227 Human Rights Watch interview with Marat Zhanuzakov, Almaty, April 1, 2003.
228 Human Rights Watch interview with Marina Sabitova, Karaganda, April 8, 2003.
232 Human Rights Watch interview with Claudia Svintsova, Karaganda, April 9, 2003.
233 Human Rights Watch interview with Oksana Pernovskaia, head of the DVK’s Western Kazakhstan branch, Almaty, April 1, 2003.
234 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Iskanderbek Torbekov, June 21, 2003, and interview with Almira Kosainova, RNPK press-secretary, Almaty, April 2, 2003
236 RNPK press release, “Dialog demokratov v Alma-Ate” (Democrats’ Dialog in Almaty), May 30, 2003.
237 Human Rights Watch interview with Lidia Mikhailovna, Karaganda, April 9, 2003.
238 Human Rights Watch interview with Albert N., Astana, April 11, 2003.