09ASTANA373, KAZAKHSTAN: PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER SENTENCED TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA373 2009-03-02 10:41 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO6690
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHNP RUEHPW
RUEHROV
DE RUEHTA #0373/01 0611041
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 021041Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4781
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1283
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0666
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1369
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0844
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0760

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000373 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, CA/OCS 
FRANKFURT FOR REGIONAL CONSULAR OFFICER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2034 
TAGS: PGOV PREL CASC KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN:  PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER SENTENCED TO 
PRISON, BUT FM TAZHIN PROMISES SATISFACTORY RESOLUTION 
 
REF: A. ASTANA 0175 
     B. ASTANA 0135 
     C. ASTANA 0055 
     D. 08 ASTANA 2576 
     E. 08 ASTANA 2410 (NOTAL) 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland, 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
1. (S) SUMMARY:  Following the conclusion of his criminal 
trial in Ridder on February 26, Peace Corps Volunteer Anthony 
Sharp was sentenced to two years in prison on explosives 
charges -- and taken away in handcuffs straight to jail.  The 
Ambassador immediately raised this development with senior 
Kazakhstani officials, including Foreign Minister Tazhin, 
explaining that Sharp's imprisonment violated the Kazakhstani 
government's commitment to us that Sharp would be given a 
suspended sentence and deported.  On February 27, Tazhin 
promised the Ambassador that through the judicial appeals 
process, Kazakhstan would follow through on its original 
commitment within 30 days, so long as we are able to keep the 
case out of the media.  Based on a written request from the 
Ambassador, a Ridder judge ordered Sharp released from jail 
on February 27, but denied our request that he be allowed to 
leave Ridder and travel to Astana.  Tazhin made clear to the 
Ambassador on March 2 that he had had to push back very hard 
against the Committee for National Security (KNB).  He also 
said the Ambassador should immediately request a meeting with 
President Nazarbayev to apologize for the incident and 
express our gratitude that Kazakhstan is resolving it.  The 
Ambassador has been in touch Sharp and with both of his 
parents.  They agreed to keep the case out of the press. 
Sharp's lawyers are planning to file a formal appeal no later 
than March 13.  END SUMMARY. 
 
SHARP SENTENCED TO PRISON TERM, TAKEN TO JAIL 
 
2. (C) The trial of Peace Corp Volunteer Anthony Sharp 
resumed in Ridder February 26.  A Consular Officer and the 
Peace Corps Country Director were both present.  The 
proceedings were completed that day, and the judge handed 
down his verdict, sentencing Sharp to two years in prison on 
explosives charges.  He was taken away in handcuffs for 
prison in-processing. 
 
AMBASSADOR RAISES CASE WITH SENIOR OFFICIALS 
 
3. (C) The Consular Officer immediately notified the DCM, who 
in turn informed the Ambassador about the verdict.  At that 
time, the Ambassador was meeting in his office with 
Presidential Advisor Yermukhamet Yertysbayev.  The Ambassador 
explained the situation to Yertsybayev, who offered to bring 
it to the attention of other officials in the Presidential 
Administration.  Following the meeting, we drafted a 
non-paper, translated it into Russian, and sent it to 
Yertysbayev.  The non-paper explained that (1) we consider 
the case against Sharp to be a political provocation; (2) the 
verdict violated our understanding with the Kazakhstani 
government that Sharp would be given a suspended sentence and 
deported; (3) we would try to keep the verdict out of the 
U.S. media, but once it hit the press, the news would cause 
serious damage to the bilateral relationship; and (4) we 
expected the Kazakhstani government to take immediate steps 
to rectify the situation and deport Sharp.  Just before we 
e-mailed Yertysbayev the non-paper, he called us to tell us 
that he had spoken with Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor 
Kairat Sarybay, who assured him that Sharp was not being sent 
to prison, but rather was being deported.  This turned out to 
be incorrect, since Sharp was, in fact, taken to prison. 
 
4. (C) The DCM phoned Talgat Kaliyev, who until recently was 
head of the MFA Americas Department, and who had been tasked 
by Sarybay to handle the Sharp case.  Kaliyev had reassured 
us repeatedly over the past several weeks that everything was 
fine, and that Sharp would be given a suspended sentence and 
deported.  Kaliyev was surprised to learn of the verdict. 
When we spoke with him several hours later, he claimed he had 
"everyone together" in his office, and was working on the 
 
ASTANA 00000373  002 OF 003 
 
 
issue; however, he was not able to immediately offer an 
explanation regarding what happened or how the situation 
would be fixed. 
 
5. (C) At the same time, the Ambassador tried to call 
Sarybay, whose staff said he was unavailable to take the 
Ambassador's call.  The Ambassador then called State 
Secretary Saudabayev's Chief of Staff, Roman Vassilenko (with 
whom we have been in touch about the case since the end of 
December), relayed the key points from the non-paper, and 
asked him to inform Saudabayev.  Va
ssilenko promised to speak 
with Saudabayev as soon as Saudabayev was available. 
Vassilenko also urged the Ambassador to get in touch with 
Foreign Minister Tazhin immediately. 
 
6. (C) The Ambassador subsequently managed to reach Tazhin, 
who was suffering from a bad cold, and relayed to him all the 
details.  He asked Tazhin to call Sarybay immediately, which 
Tazhin agreed to do.  Tazhin also promised to "gather the 
right people" the following morning and get back to the 
Ambassador. 
 
TAZHIN PROMISES EVERYTHING WILL BE FIXED 
 
7. (C) Tazhin kept to his word, and called in the Ambassador 
early afternoon February 27.  He told the Ambassador that 
Sharp would be released from prison as early as that day.  He 
promised the government would follow through on its original 
commitment -- that Sharp receive a suspended sentence and be 
deported -- within 30 days, so long as we keep the case out 
the media.   He explained that everything would be fixed 
through the judicial appeals process, and assured the 
Ambassador that the Supreme Court was already on board. 
 
8. (S) During a one-on-one conversation, Tazhin explained to 
the Ambassador that the hardest thing he had had to do in his 
intergovernmental meeting earlier that day was to push back 
against with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and "other 
bodies" -- meaning the Committee for National Security (KNB) 
-- not on the explosives charges against Sharp, but rather 
regarding the fact that during a search of Sharp's apartment 
after his initial detention, the authorities had found a "top 
secret map, proving that Sharp is an American spy."  The 
Ambassador told Tazhin, simply for his own information, that 
the map was a Soviet map from the 1960s that Sharp had bought 
in the bazaar as a souvenir.  In a follow-on conversation, 
Talgat Kaliyev told us the lesson he had learned was "you 
can't trust those guys (i.e., KNB) to keep their word."  The 
Ambassador subsequently contacted Roman Vassilenko, who 
assured him that State Secretary Saudabayev had been involved 
with the case the previous evening and had briefed President 
Nazarabayev.  (NOTE:  We strongly suspect it was Nazarbayev 
himself who reined in the KNB enough to allow Sharp to be 
released from prison.  END NOTE.) 
 
SHARP RELEASED FROM JAIL, BUT CONFINED TO RIDDER 
 
9. (C) Talgat Kaliyev then worked with us to get Sharp out of 
jail, which, according to Kaliyev, included his phoning 
Ridder City Court Chairman Bulat Zagiyev.  Per Kaliyev's 
instructions, the Ambassador wrote a letter to Zagiyev 
requesting that Sharp be released into post's custody, and be 
allowed to travel to Astana for a medical evaluation.  We 
faxed the letter to Ridder.  Several hours later, a court 
hearing was held to review our request, with Sharp's lawyers 
and the prosecutors in attendance.  The court ordered Sharp 
released from jail, but denied the request to allow him to 
travel in Astana, and instead insisted that he move back into 
his former apartment in Ridder.  (NOTE:  Because Sharp's 
landlord is not allowing him to return to the apartment, 
Sharp's lawyers have filed a motion with the court requesting 
that he be allowed to stay in the Ridder hotel where he has 
been residing for the past several weeks.  On March 2, 
Sharp's lawyers appealed the denial of the request to allow 
him to travel to Astana.  Talgat Kaliyev indicated to us that 
we should not press this latter issue too hard.  END NOTE.) 
 
 
ASTANA 00000373  003 OF 003 
 
 
SHARP FAMILY AGREES CASE SHOULD STAY OUT OF MEDIA 
 
10. (C) The Ambassador was in contact with Sharp and both of 
his parents during February 28 and March 1.   He assured them 
that though he could not provide all the sensitive details, 
the government had promised to satisfactorily resolve Sharp's 
case within a month.  Sharp and his parents agreed with the 
necessity of keeping the case out of the media. 
 
TAZHIN RECOMMENDS NAZARBAYEV MEETING 
 
11. (S) Foreign Minister Tazhin called in the Ambassador 
again on March 2, and reaffirmed that everything remained on 
track in resolving the Sharp case.   He also emphasized 
several times how "difficult and irritating" his February 27 
intra-governmental meeting had been, and recommended the 
Ambassador request a meeting with President Nazarbayev to 
discucss the issue.  Tazhin explained, "I have my views based 
on broader foreign relations and the bilateral relationship, 
but 'others' have other views" -- thus making it clear that 
Nazarbayev would be the ultimate arbiter.  He did not try 
very hard to hide whom he meant by "others," because he said 
he understands "them" since he headed "that committee" -- 
meaning that KNB -- for a time.  He also implied the KNB is 
pushing back because of "the April incident last year." 
(NOTE:  "The April incident" was an ugly provocation against 
an Embassy AmCit.  END NOTE.)  Tazhin recommended the 
Ambassador approach's with Nazarbayev should be that we are 
deeply sorry and sincerely apologize, and are grateful 
Kazakhstan is finding a way to solve this problem -- since 
the "situation gives a bad impression" and we understand that 
it is in President Nazarbayev's hands to decide. 
 
LAWYERS PLOT APPEAL 
 
12. (SBU) The February 26 verdict has not yet been formally 
handed down; that formal verdict is expected on March 4. 
(NOTE:  This delay of several days is standard practice for 
Kazakhstan.  END NOTE.)  Sharp's lawyers are working the 
appeal, which they will have to file by March 13.  They 
expect an appellate hearing to take place in the 
Ust-Kamenogorsk oblast court approximately two weeks after 
the filing.  Appellate hearings in Kazakhstan typically 
require just one court session. 
 
13. (S) COMMENT:  It appears to us that the KNB is pressing 
back hard, painting Sharp as "one more American spy" they've 
caught.  On our side, it seems, are Tazhin, Saudabayev, and 
Sarybay.   If Nazarbayev agrees to a meeting, the Ambassador 
will ask him to honor the agreement we have made that will 
get Sharp out of the country.  The Ambassador is scheduled to 
meet with Presidential Administration head Aslan Musin to 
discuss the case on March 3.  END COMMENT. 
HOAGLAND

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