06ASTANA919, KAZAKHSTAN: ALMATY NOTES, DECEMBER 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ASTANA919 2006-12-22 05:53 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO2065
RR RUEHAST RUEHDBU
DE RUEHTA #0919/01 3560553
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220553Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8016
INFO RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1660
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 7815
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 7765
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 7078
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 1971
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1358
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2163

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000919 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: ALMATY NOTES, DECEMBER 2006 
 
1. The "Almaty Notes" series is intended to maintain focus on 
developments in civil society, the media, and the opposition in 
Kazakhstan's "southern capital" following the move of the Embassy to 
Astana. 
 
Opposition Journalist on Trial 
------------------------------ 
 
2. On November 23, the Bostandyk district court in Almaty held the 
first hearing of the criminal case against opposition journalist 
Kazis Toguzbayev.  Toguzbayev is accused of insulting President 
Nazarbayev's dignity and honor in his articles "Mafia Regime Covers 
up Murderers of Altynbek Sarsenbayev" and "Pope of Rome and Pope of 
Astana - Feel the Difference!" published on the kub.kz opposition 
web site in May and April. 
 
3. Pol FSN observed the proceedings.  About forty opposition 
activists came to support Toguzbayev.  Everyone was allowed in the 
courtroom.  The judge allowed videotaping, photography, and audio 
recording.  Toguzbayev's lawyer made several motions:  to allow 
Tamara Kaleyeva of the AdilSoz mass media NGO to participate in the 
case as a public defender; to invite several KNB officers involved 
in the investigation to testify; to invite three state experts who 
examined the articles to testify; and to invite a professor from 
Kazakh State University to participate in the proceedings as an 
independent language expert.  The judge granted all the motions 
except the independent language expert. 
 
4. Under questioning, Toguzbayev stated that he had no motive and no 
intention of insulting President Nazarbayev.  His articles 
criticized the president as a public servant, and his policies.  The 
judge scheduled the next hearing for December 25.  Three state 
language experts will be invited to present their interpretation of 
Toguzbayev's articles. 
 
Human Rights Organizations to monitor Alga Registration 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
5. Representatives of human rights organizations will monitor the 
process of registration of Alga Party, which has been seeking 
registration since September 2005.  The working group for monitoring 
will include representatives of the Kazakhstan International Bureau 
for Human Rights, Almaty Helsinki Committee, "Zashchita" Fund, 
AdilSoz, Union of Journalists, and Charter for Human Rights. 
According to Ninel Fokina of the Helsinki Committee, the working 
group is neutral and was set up not because they favor this party 
and its program.  (Azat weekly, November 30) 
 
Sixth Eurasian Media Forum to be held in Almaty 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
6. The sixth Eurasian Media Forum will be held in Almaty from April 
19 to April 21, 2007, the general director of the forum, Vladimir 
Rerikh, announced at a press briefing on November 23.  The media 
forum program will include Middle East problems, including the trial 
of Saddam Hussein, military conflict in Lebanon, the nuclear 
policies of Iran and North Korea, and energy security policy of 
Eurasian countries.  In addition, organizers have told post that the 
forum plans to discuss freedom of speech in CIS and the "Borat" 
phenomenon. 
 
 
Criticism of Demolition of Krishna Houses 
----------------------------------------- 
 
7. "The demolition of Krishna community houses in the suburbs of 
Almaty may damage the international reputation of Kazakhstan," 
Yevgeniy Zhovtis of the Kazakhstani International Bureau for Human 
Rights and Ninel Fokina of Almaty Helsinki Committee stated at a 
press conference in Almaty on November 28.  Fokina said that the 
court rulings to this effect were not based on the law.  Zhovtis 
mentioned that the demolition was selective: only houses of Krishna 
devotees have been demolished.  According to Zhovtis' sources, five 
additional lawsuits on demolition of Krishna devotees' houses have 
been filed with the court.  (Interfax, November 28) 
 
NGOs against Demolition Campaign 
-------------------------------- 
 
8. At a November 28 conference in Almaty, the Alga party and a 
number of NGOs discussed the problems of Almaty residents facing 
demolition of their houses.  According to MP Amalbek Tshan, who 
participated in the discussion, "in demolishing 'illegal' houses, 
the city administration is guided by interests of construction 
companies, but not the city residents."  Yevgeniy Zhovtis of 
 
ASTANA 00000919  002 OF 003 
 
 
Kazakhstani International Bureau for Human Rights added: "what is 
taking place in the country is 'forced eviction', though there is no 
such a term in Kazakhstan legislation."  According to Alga party 
leader Asylbek Kozhakhmetov, half of the more than 80 families of 
the Shanyrak district who applied for legalization of their houses, 
were turned down.  "Now the authorities are not demolishing their 
houses using bulldozers, but are driving the residents out of the 
district by cutting off water and electricity supply and by not 
enrolling their child
ren in local schools."  The participants of the 
conference decided to set up Shanyrak Public Committee to defend the 
families in Almaty facing the demolition.  (Interfax, November 28) 
 
Opposition Leader Abilov Stands Trial 
------------------------------------- 
 
9. On December 4, the Almalinskiy district court in Almaty began 
hearing the criminal case filed against the well-known politician 
Bulat Abilov and two his former business companions, Baurzhan 
Karabekov and Ualikhan Bekbosyn.  All three defendants were charged 
with large-scale misappropriation and embezzlement of the property 
they were entrusted with. 
 
10. The defendants were accused of committing these crimes during 
the period from 1996 to 1998 when Abilov was the chairman of the 
Butya-Capital Investment Fund (BCIF) Supervising Board and Karabekov 
and Bekbosyn were the executive directors of the fund.  BCIF, along 
with other 167 investment funds, participated in the coupon 
privatization of Kazakhstan enterprises. 
 
11.  At the December 4 hearing, the judge rejected all of the 
defendant's motions, including to dismiss the case because of lack 
of crime, to invite more plaintiffs to testify, to give the 
defendants' lawyers two months to study the case, and to allow 
videotaping.  The small courtroom could hold only about 40 persons, 
including 13 plaintiffs.  Only journalists and a dozen observers 
(including Pol FSN) were allowed in.  About a hundred of Abilov's 
supporters wearing yellow scarves waited in the lobby of the court 
building. 
 
12. The judge announced that more than 700 shareholders of BCIF had 
filed complaints against Abilov and his colleagues, accusing them of 
misappropriating their assets.  Only 13 plaintiffs were present in 
the courtroom on December 4.  According to the judge, the rest could 
not attend for various reasons.  He read aloud about a dozen letters 
from plaintiffs confirming their claims and apologizing for failing 
to attend the hearing.  Surprisingly, several letters the judge read 
aloud were from plaintiffs who retracted their claims, and four 
plaintiffs present in the courtroom renounced their previous claims. 
 The defendants asked the judge to invite to the court at least 200 
shareholders to find out their reasons for complaining.  The judge 
rejected this request, as well as the defendants' motion for a 
continuance until January in order to study the 125 volumes of 
evidence. 
 
13.  At the December 20 hearing, the judge adjourned the proceedings 
until January 10 due to the absence of defendant Baurzhan Karabekov. 
 (Karabekov's lawyer said his client was hospitalized on December 18 
with severe high blood pressure after learning that some of the 
plaintiffs in the case were seeking millions of dollars in damages.) 
 Abilov's new lawyer asked for a continuance until February to 
familiarize himself with the 125 volumes of evidence but was denied. 
 Only journalists were allowed into the small courtroom.  About 200 
Abilov supporters gathered peacefully outside the courthouse for 
about 30 minutes, holding posters saying "Stop Prosecuting Abilov" 
and "Article 39 of the Constitution Prohibits Politically Motivated 
Limitation of Human Rights and Freedoms." 
 
 
Concerns about Draft Law on Publishing Activities 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
14. On December 6, a number of mass media NGOs, including Adil Soz 
and the Union of Journalists, made a statement expressing their 
concerns about a new draft law on publishing activities.  The 
statement asserted that some draft provisions were aimed at 
curtailing the publishing service market and introducing tight 
political censorship.  For example, the draft would require 
licensing for printing houses dealing with mass media, which 
observers believe would increase the dependence of printing 
facilities on state bodies. 
 
15. The statement noted that this summer, Mazhilis deputies already 
rejected the licensing proposal.  It warns that Minister of 
Information Yertesbayev's statement about controlling the Internet 
and this licensing requirement are not "empty promise," but rather a 
 
ASTANA 00000919  003 OF 003 
 
 
real threat to freedom of speech. The mass media advocates called on 
MPs to be objective and be men of principle.  (Respublika weekly, 
December 8) 
 
 
Proposals on Constitutional Reforms 
----------------------------------- 
 
16. On December 7 in Almaty in the Presidential Institute for 
Strategic Studies, the working group of the State Commission for 
Democratization held a conference on constitutional reforms. 
Yerkin Ongarbayev, Co-Chairman of Adilet Party and a member of the 
working group, gave a report on their proposals, which included the 
right of Parliament to discuss candidates for cabinet of ministers' 
positions, the right of Parliament to form the Budget Committee, to 
conduct investigations, to appoint the Ombudsman, the election of 
half of Mazhilis deputies from party nominee lists, financing 
political parties from the state budget and the right of Parliament 
to interpret the laws. 
 
17. According to the head of the working group, Alikhan Baymenov, 
the State Commission was wrapping up its work.  Early next year 
President Nazarbayev is likely to participate in the last meeting of 
the State Commission on Democratization and to announce "step by 
step" constitutional reforms based on the recommendations of the 
state commission. 
 
MILAS

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