08ASTANA620, KAZAKHSTAN: ALMATY NOTES, MARCH 10 – MARCH 23, 2008

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA620 2008-03-25 08:20 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO3455
RR RUEHAST
DE RUEHTA #0620/01 0850820
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 250820Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2123
INFO RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1887
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 8252
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 8139
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 7309
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 2340
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1525
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 0341

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000620 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: ALMATY NOTES, MARCH 10 - MARCH 23, 2008 
 
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. 
 
- NGO's Criticize Fight Against Extremism and Terrorism 
- No Alliance with Aliyev 
- Complaints, Protests Regarding Unfinished Construction 
- Disabled Protecting Their Office 
- Protest Against Ban on Demonstrations 
 
-------------------- -------------------------------- 
NGO's Criticize Fight Against Extremism and Terrorism 
-------------------- -------------------------------- 
 
2.  International Human Rights Bureau head Yevgeniy Zhovtis and 
Almaty Helsinki Committee president Ninel Fokina held a joint press 
conference in Almaty on March 19 to express their concerns over the 
government's tactics in fighting extremism and terrorism.  Fokina 
claimed that the Committee on National Security (KNB), Procurator 
General's Office (PGO), and Interior Ministry are using the fight as 
a pretext to expand their control over civil society.  There is an 
effort, she maintained, to persuade the public that mere affiliation 
with a religious group can be a threat to national security. 
 
3.  Zhovtis and Fokina alleged that there were serious violations of 
both Kazakhstani legislation and international legal principles in 
two recent trials of alleged terrorists and extremists.  On February 
25, 2008, a Shymkent court sentenced 14 Kazakhstani citizens to 
prison terms ranging from 14 to 19 years on charges of organizing a 
terrorist group, promoting terrorism, and planning terrorist acts 
against the KNB.   On December 27, 2007, a Karaganda court sentenced 
29 Kazakhstanis to prison terms ranging from 5 to 7 years for 
inciting social, national and religious hatred and for participating 
in the activities of the banned Hizb ut Tahrir group.   Zhovtis and 
Fokina explained that both these trials were held in camera, with 
neither the defendants' relatives, nor the media, nor NGO's 
permitted to be in attendance.  In the Karaganda case, even the 
defendants themselves were not present when the verdict was handed 
down. 
 
4.  Several relatives of those convicted in the Shymkent trial 
attended the press conference and briefed journalists about details 
of the case.  The relatives alleged that key physical evidence, 
including weapons, computer discs, and leaflets, were planted by the 
KNB.  They maintained that none of the defendants admitted guilt as 
they had done nothing wrong.  Aysara Sugirova, wife of defendant 
Dastanbek Sugirov, claimed that the KNB selected the defendants 
largely because of their appearance: most of them had short beards 
and wore short pants.  Her husband, she insisted, was merely a 
peddler of Islamic literature. 
 
5.  Fokina said that over the past few years, there has been a 
significant increase in criminal cases for religiously-motivated 
extremism and terrorism.  Zhovtis argued that "preventative 
measures" taken by law enforcement against individuals who are not 
truly engaged in terrorist activities -- who may be doing nothing 
more than passing out leaflets -- can actually further radicalize 
such persons. 
 
----------------------- 
No Alliance with Aliyev 
----------------------- 
 
6.  Panoroma weekly reported on March 21 that at a meeting of the 
AytPark discussion club, Azat (formerly True Ak Zhol) leader Bulat 
Abilov claimed that Rakhat Aliyev had tried to communicate with his 
party through "middlemen," who had even offered financial 
assistance.  Abilov, however, ruled out any kind of cooperation or 
alliance between the Kazakhstani opposition and Aliyev. 
 
---------------------- ------------------------------- 
Complaints, Protests Regarding Unfinished Construction 
---------------------- ------------------------------- 
 
7. The co-owners of two multi-family residential buildings in Almaty 
organized a press briefing on March 17.  They told journalists that 
the KazStroy construction company began constructing their 
residences in 2004.  By 2007, one was 90 per cent finished and the 
other one lacked only linkages to utilities.  However, the co-owners 
contended that as of 2008, KazStroy is moribund, and the company's 
management has run off without finishing their homes.  The Almaty 
city administration has failed to come to their assistance. 
 
8. On March 18, approximately 30 Almaty residents who had made 
down-payments for new apartments held a protest rally against the 
 
ASTANA 00000620  002 OF 002 
 
 
construction companies that took their money, but failed to follow 
through on the construction work.  The protesters held up placards 
with slogans including "Provide Our Children with Roofs", 
"Construction Companies Must Be Held Accountable", and "Kazakhstan - 
For the People."  According to the demonstrators, the local 
authorities have not responded t
o their complaints.  They have now 
addressed an appeal to President Nazarbayev, on whom they are 
pinning their final hopes. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Disabled Protecting Their Office 
-------------------------------- 
 
9.  On March 12, a group of disabled people from the Bibi-Ana 
association picketed outside an Almaty municipal court building to 
attract the public's attention to efforts to evict their 
organization from its premises.  Former Almaty mayor Viktor 
Khrapunov sold the building in which Bibi-Ana has it offices several 
years ago.  The new owners want the organization out of this space. 
Current Almaty mayor Imangali Tasmagambetov promised to resolve the 
issue, but has not come through.  The case is now being heard by the 
municipal court. 
 
------------------------------------- 
Protest Against Ban on Demonstrations 
------------------------------------- 
 
10. On March 7, Almaty resident Olga Urazbekova held a one-woman 
protest on Republic Square to draw attention to the government's ban 
on demonstrations at this central Almaty site.  She held up a poster 
with the slogan "Kazakhstan is a Police State."  Urazbekova was 
arrested and taken to a local police station, but was released 
shortly thereafter. 
 
ORDWAY

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