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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA1872 2008-09-25 11:13 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

DE RUEHTA #1872/01 2691113
O 251113Z SEP 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001872 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/25/2018 
Classified By: Pol-Econ Chief Steven Fagin, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
1. (SBU) The Ministry of Internal Affairs announced on 
September 24 that it has opened a criminal case against 
several key opposition figures -- Azat's Bulat Abilov, OSDP's 
Amirzhan Kosanov, Alga's Vladimir Kozlov, and the Shanyrak 
movement's Asylbek Kozhakhmetov -- for allegedly concealing 
the whereabouts of a suspect in a murder investigation.  The 
suspect is Yesentay Baysakov, a Pavlodar businessman and 
erstwhile member of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) 
who is accused of masterminding the murder of a business 
competitor in 2001.  He currently resides in Ukraine as a 
political refugee, a status he apparently received with the 
help of support letters from Kazakhstan's opposition leaders. 
 Kazakhstani law enforcement authorities are now accusing the 
oppositionists of willfully concealing Baysakov's whereabouts 
and aiding his escape from justice.  The opposition leaders 
call the case "groundless and politically motivated" and 
claim to have had no advance knowledge that Baysakov was 
under investigation.  Privately, all stress that they do not 
know Baysakov well and that the letters were sent on behalf 
of several individuals, not just him.  Other figures in the 
opposition camp give little credence to the criminal case and 
see it as an attempt to handicap the opposition. 
2.  (SBU) On September 24, the Ministry of Internal Affairs 
(MVD) opened a criminal case against several key opposition 
leaders for allegedly concealing and abetting a suspect in a 
serious crime.  The accused are Azat party chair Bulat 
Abilov, OSDP deputy head Amirzhan Kosanov, Alga party leader 
Vladimir Kozlov, and Shanyrak movement head (and former Alga 
leader) Asykbek Kozhakhmetov.  The case against them is a 
tangled and complicated story that revolves around a 
heretofore largely unknown personality, Yesentay Baysakov, 
who was apparently previously involved to the Democratic 
Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), the party started by Abilov and 
Galymzhan Zhakiyanov in 2001.  In 2003, at the time of the 
launch of the corruption case against Zhakiyanov that 
eventually landed him in prison, Baysakov and several others 
connected to DVK fled the country and asked for political 
asylum in Ukraine.  The opposition leaders currently under 
investigation subsequently signed two letters in support of 
their asylum petitions.  Law enforcement authorities now 
claim that Baysakov was involved in the high-profile 2001 
murder of a Pavlodar businessman, Boris Kostanov.  Baysakov 
allegedly ordered Kostanov's murder after a failed attempt to 
take over his chemical business.  The authorities' case 
against the opposition leaders is that they willfully 
concealed Baysakov's whereabouts and aided his escape by 
supporting his asylum application.  Kazakhstan requested 
Baysakov's extradition this year, but Ukrainian authorities 
refused the request on the basis of his protected status. 
The opposition leaders' two letters were apparently part of 
the package of documents Ukraine sent back to Kazakhstan in 
support of the refusal to extradite. 
3.  (SBU)  The opposition leaders are denying any wrong-doing 
and accusing the authorities of "political persecution."  In 
a press release, Abilov, Kosanov, and Kozhahmetov called the 
case against them "groundless and politically motivated." 
They do not deny signing the two letters, but maintain that 
the letters were on behalf of several Zhakiyanov associates, 
not just Baysakov, and that this was done at the time of the 
"complete persecution of opposition leaders and activists" in 
Kazakhstan.  The opposition leaders further claim that they 
had no idea that Baysakov was under investigation.  They 
accuse the authorities of "waging yet another campaign to 
discredit the opposition" and using this case to detract 
attention from the "slew of corruption scandals" plaguing the 
government.  They further maintain that this is an attempt by 
the authorities to exclude the opposition from future 
elections.  (Note:  If convicted, the opposition leaders 
would not be able to stand for election until the conclusion 
of their sentences.  There are, however, no national 
elections scheduled until 2012, when both parliamentary and 
presidential elections should be conducted.  In his September 
2 speech opening the latest session of parliament, President 
Nazarbayev said there was no reason to hold early 
parliamentary elections.  End Note.) 
ASTANA 00001872  002 OF 002 
4.  (SBU) While presenting a united public front to the 
media, privately, the four oppositionists are trying to 
distance themselves from Baysakov and the 2001 murder case. 
Abilov, Kosanov, and Kozhak
hmetov stressed in conversations 
with us that they signed numerous letters on behalf of 
Zhakiyanov's associates living in Ukraine and that they did 
this on the personal request of Zhakiyanov's close friend, 
Tolen Tokhtasynov, a current deputy head of Kazakhstan's 
Communist Party who appears to reside outside of the country. 
 Kozlov maintained that he never signed any letters on behalf 
of Baysakov.  Both Kozlov and Kosanov underlined that they 
never met Baysakov, and Abilov and Kozhakhmetov said they met 
him only briefly, during a 2004 trip to Ukraine.  All claim 
that they did not know that Baysakov was sought by the 
authorities.  (Note: While it is certainly feasible that 
Baysakov's name could have gone unnoticed on the letters in 
support of his asylum claim, it is perhaps less plausible 
that none of the opposition leaders were aware up until now 
of his alleged involvement in the murder.  We uncovered 
several Kazakhstani press articles from before Baysakov fled 
Kazakhstan in 2003 fingering him as a suspect in the crime. 
End Note.) 
5.  (SBU) Other key figures in the opposition camp give 
little credence to the charges and see the case as an attempt 
by the authorities to handicap the opposition.  Socialist 
Resistance movement head Aynur Kurmanov endorsed the idea 
that the government wants to exclude the opposition leaders 
from future elections.  Azat deputy head Peter Svoik called 
the charges a red herring, aimed at distracting the public 
from the worsening economic situation, internal battles 
within the ruling elite, and the continuous swipes from 
ex-Nazarbayev son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev.  Opposition 
journalist Sergey Duvanov argued to us that the whole case is 
completely fabricated.  "The opposition leaders don't even 
know who this guy is," he contended. 
6. (C) The case against the opposition leaders has come out 
of the blue.  At this early juncture, the government's 
motivations are difficult to decipher.  The move appears to 
be inconsistent with Kazakhstan's domestic political 
realities -- and, should the cases lead to actual 
indictments, can only sully the country's international image 
as its 2010 OSCE chairmanship approaches.  The opposition is 
fractured and marginalized, posing no threat to the 
government, and no elections are mandated for four more 
years.  In addition, there appeared to have recently been a 
thaw in government-opposition relations.  Nazarbayev held 
separate private meetings with Bulat Abilov and OSDP head 
Zharmakhan Tukaybay in the Spring, after which there was 
rampant speculation they were cutting a deal on early 
parliamentary elections that would lead to limited opposition 
seats in parliament.  While opposition leaders have 
criticized the government's handling of the Rakhat Aliyev 
case, their demands that Aliyev be brought to justice in 
Kazakhstan and opposition press exposes of his wrongdoing 
largely fit hand-in-glove with the government's own 
anti-Aliyev efforts.  Nazarbayev's categorical rejection of 
early elections in his September 2 speech to parliament 
caught may have signaled a change in course, but nevertheless 
there had been no hints of any preparations to go after the 
opposition.  End Comment. 


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