09ASTANA191, KAZAKHSTAN: DETAINED NEWSPAPER EDITOR YESERGEPOV

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA191 2009-02-02 10:26 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO0693
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHNP RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSR
DE RUEHTA #0191/01 0331026
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 021026Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4495
INFO RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1118
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0516
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1222
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0692
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0608
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000191 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM KPAO KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN:  DETAINED NEWSPAPER EDITOR YESERGEPOV 
ALLEGEDLY LINKED TO SHADY BUSINESMAN 
 
REF: A. ASTANA 0058 
     B. 08 ASTANA 2383 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland, 1.4 (b)/(d) 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  Media reports link Ramazan Yesergepov, the 
Editor-in-Chief of "Alma-Ata Info" newspaper who has been 
detained and charged with disseminating classified 
information, with an unsavory business tycoon, Sultan 
Makhmadov.  One of Makhmadov's companies is under 
investigation for tax evasion by the Committee for National 
Security (KNB).  Makhamdov's case is the subject of the 
November 21 Alma-Ata Info article that cited two classified 
KNB documents and landed Yesergepov in his current 
predicament.  The KNB alleges that Makhmadov "organized the 
theft" of the classified documents and paid Yesergepov to 
publish the article.  Yesergepov, who is refusing to divulge 
his source, denies any links to Makhmadov.   The MFA cited 
these details in arguing to us that the Yesergepov case is 
not a human rights case.  Yesergepov's wife asked for our 
intervention in getting the court to release him on bail and 
reduce the charges against him.  We provided her with NGO 
contacts to help her obtain a new defense attorney.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
SHADY BUSINESSMAN ... 
 
2.  (SBU)  More details are coming to the fore in the case of 
Ramazan Yesergepov, the Editor-in-Chief of "Alma-Ata Info 
newspaper" who remains in the custody of the Committee for 
National Security (KNB), charged with dissemination of 
classified information (ref A).  Various media reports point 
to ties between Yesergepov and an allegedly unsavory 
businessman named Sultan Makhmadov.  Makhmadov is a business 
tycoon in Zhambul oblast who began with a small shop in the 
early 1990s and successfully built a conglomerate that 
produces over 30 types of goods, including food additives, 
bio-ethanol, and liquor.  Last year, the Zhambyl oblast KNB 
apparently opened a tax evasion investigation into one of 
Makhmadov's liquor-export companies, "Taraz."  The KNB 
contends that the company failed to pay over $6 million in 
taxes and customs fees on its liquor exports.  The 
authorities have also hinted that Makhmadov, who is an ethnic 
Chechen, has links to warlords in Chechnya and has been 
involved in illegal arms smuggling, although no charges have 
been brought against him on these grounds. 
 
... OR VICTIM OF KNB PERSECUTION? 
 
3.  (SBU)  The "Alma-Ata Info" article that landed Yesergepov 
in his current predicament deals specifically with the KNB's 
investigation of Makhamadov.  The article, published on 
November 21, accused the Zhambyl oblast KNB of attempting to 
use its influence to steer the legal process.  As evidence, 
the paper published two letters allegedly from the head of 
the Zhambyl oblast KNB to national-level KNB Chairman 
Amangeldy Shabdarbayev, both marked "classified."  In the 
first, the Zhambyl KNB head claims he wants to inform 
"interested parties" that Makhmadov will try to reach out to 
President Nazarbayev in order to "blackmail" the authorities 
investigating him.  (NOTE:  Makhmadov has been known to boast 
that he is "a friend of the President," although it is hard 
to judge the strength of those ties.  He has also been linked 
to Rakhat Aliyev, Nazarbayev's exiled former son-in-law.  END 
NOTE.)  In the second letter, the Zhambul KNB head asks 
Shabdarbayev to reach out to the Prosecutor General and the 
Supreme Court to assure a favorable verdict in the KNB's 
court case against the "Taraz" company.  The "Alma-Ata Info" 
article also alleged that the KNB fabricated evidence against 
Makhmadov and exerted pressure on a witness to give false 
testimony. 
 
JOURNALISM FOR HIRE? 
 
4.  (SBU)  The provenance of the two classified letters is 
the crux of the authorities' case against Yesergepov. 
Yesergepov refuses to disclose his source, but the KNB 
 
ASTANA 00000191  002 OF 002 
 
 
alleges that Makhmadov "organized the theft" of the documents 
and paid Yesergepov to publish the article.  According to 
press reports, the KNB claims that proof of remuneration and 
evidence that Makhmadov "edited" the article were found 
during the KNB's search of Yesergepov's offices.  Makhmadov 
was arrested in early December and charged with illegal 
receipt and dissemination of state secrets, although he has 
since been released on bail.  Yesergepov denies any links to 
Makhmadov.  In a letter to the diplomatic corps about the 
case, Yesergepov's wife accuses the authorities of 
intentionally linking her husband to "these people" to scare 
him and fo
rce him into a confession. 
 
MFA MAINTAINS CASE IS REALLY ABOUT MAKHMADOV 
 
5.  (C)  MFA Americas Department head Talgat Kaliyev told us 
on January 27 that Yesergepov's case is not a human rights 
case at all and the Embassy "should stay away from it."  He 
maintained that Yesergepov is not an important civil society 
figure, but rather "a nobody," publishing a newspaper with 
very limited circulation, and now he is enjoying his 15 
minutes of fame.  Kaliyev claimed that the case is really 
about Makhmadov -- whom he described as a "manufacturer of 
counterfeit vodka" - but Yesergepov got caught up in it 
because Makhmadov paid him to publish the internal KNB 
documents to discredit the criminal investigation against 
Makhmadov.   Unfortunately, Yesergepov became frightened and 
refused to voluntarily submit to KNB questioning, and that 
only got him in more trouble.  Kaliyev said that he had 
warned colleagues in other ministries that despite all these 
facts, the case would draw negative attention from the 
international community, and cause problems for Kazakhstan -- 
which is exactly what is happening. 
 
WIFE ASKS FOR INTERVENTION 
 
6. (SBU)  We also met on January 27 with Yesergepov's wife, 
Raushan Yesergepova, who came to Astana to meet with the 
Prosecutor General's Office and foreign diplomatic missions, 
including the Czech Embassy in its capacity representing the 
EU Presidency.  Yesergepova said she had briefly visited her 
husband in detention several days earlier, and reported that 
he is being treated well.  She requested our assistance in 
getting the court to release him on bail and reduce the 
charges against him.  She also expressed dissatisfaction with 
her husband's defense attorney and disappointment that no 
big-name human rights defenders have stepped up to aid her 
husband.  We explained that we are following her husband's 
case closely, but can not intervene directly with the court. 
We informed her aVl_~{4XWh NGOs involved in providing legal aid for journalists. 
(NOTE:  Our understanding is that one of these NGOs is now 
assisting her in obtaining a new defense attorney.  END NOTE.) 
 
7.  (C)  COMMENT:  The latest revelations support our earlier 
conclusions that the Yesergepov case is far from a 
straightforward one.  Our approach needs to continue taking 
into account the nuances of the case, which is exactly what 
we managed to do in our January 22 OSCE PC statement.  END 
COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND

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