proceedings will shed much light on what really happened.  By Saule

court case in which demonstrators, not those who fired shots, are on
trial.  By Saule Mukhametrakhimova

**** NEW 
KYRGYZSTAN ELECTION UPDATES 2011: http://iwpr.net/focus/kyrgyz-election-2011

LATEST PROJECT REVIEWS: http://iwpr.net/make-an-impact/project-reviews

VACANCIES: http://iwpr.net/what-we-do/vacancies


CENTRAL ASIA PROGRAMME HOME: http://www.iwpr.net/programme/central-asia

CENTRAL ASIA RADIO: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia/central-asia-radio





**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************

DONATE TO IWPR: http://iwpr.net/donate

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************



Rights activist doubts proceedings will shed much light on what really

By Saule Mukhametrakhimova

In a trial just getting under way in Aktau in western Kazakstan, 37
people stand accused of instigating mass public disorder in the oil
town of Janaozen last December. It was the worst violence in Kazakstan
since the country gained independence 20 years ago.

The charges against the defendants include arson, robbery and assaults
on the police.

What they are not accused of, though, is the key event of December 16
– the use of live fire by police, which left 14 dead. Eyewitnesses
described police shooting indiscriminately into the crowd, and footage
posted on YouTube appeared to support this. Police said they were
forced to defend themselves, and the authorities have backed this
version of what happened.

Against the will of relatives of the defendants and civil society
activists, it was decided to hold the trial in Aktau, 150 kilometres
away from Janaozen.

IWPR asked Andrei Grishin of the Kazakstan Bureau for Human Rights and
Rule of Law to explain why this case is so important. He began by
putting it in historical context.

Andrei Grishin: The scale of the tragedy in Janaozen can only be
compared to the [student] protest in December 1986 in Almaty. It’s
therefore the first serious test that’s faced Kazakstan in 25 years.
There have been conflicts in that time, but not with these casualty
figures or this kind of public reaction.

It’s the first time firearms and live ammunition have been used
against citizens of Kazakstan.

At the same time, there isn’t such a massive difference between the
Kazak Soviet Socialist Republic and independent Kazakstan.

Back then in 1986, just as now, the guilty were identified before the
trial ever started, and the trouble was blamed on a bunch of young

In Janaozen itself, there was unrest in 1989 and again in 2010. The
1989 disturbances were sparked by ethnic issues. Five people died and
Soviet troops were deployed. In the latter case there are many
parallels with the December 2011 disturbances – an industrial dispute
by oil workers, in the course of which there were some attacks on

In past cases, the authorities made the maximum effort to defuse
tensions. There were no harsh reprisals against participants, and
steps were taken to address underlying social problems.

In 2011, however, no particular effort was made to contain the
situation. Quite the reverse – the situation was made worse by a
decision to disperse protesters and hunger strikers by force. If we
can take his word for it, President Nursultan Nazarbaev has said he
was not made aware of how explosive the situation was getting.

On the other side, Janazoen became a convenient platform for those
ranged against the president. I don’t just mean the opposition here;
there are plenty of people inside the president’s entourage who are
unhappy with things as they are now.

So the situation in Janaozen was allowed to happen.

The aftermath now presents a good opportunity for the authorities to
clamp down on the political opposition, which expressed support for
the demands made by striking workers during months of protests, as
well as calling for the industrial dispute to be resolved.

IWPR: What can we expect to come out of the trial in Aktau?

Grishin: It is likely that this trial will be geared towards
punishment, as is commonly the case in Kazakstan’s justice system.

The fact that only the protesters are on trial is indicative of who
authorities think is to blame. True, five policemen have been accused
of exceeding their authority and placed under house arrest. But you
can’t talk about all sides being equally represented.

What’s more, I do not think that these policemen – who were deployed
to carry out orders – will face real punishment. If that happened,
there are dozens of low-ranking police and their commanders who would
also have to be held accountable. Not many people in Kazakstan believe
the police opened fire without orders from above. Second, if they are
found culpable, other police might refuse to obey orders to open fire
on a future occasion, recalling the fate that befell their colleagues.

The outcome of this trial has been determined in advance by the arrest
of labour activists and opposition politicians immediately after the
Janaozen violence. The authorities only have one version of events, in
which the opposition is to blame, and they will stick to it even if it
defies both evidence and common sense.

IWPR: You’re referring to the officials who have blamed Janaozen on
exiled opponents of President Nazarbaev.

Grishin: We can see that according to the authorities’ narrative, the
protesting oil workers were acting on instructions from the
opposition, which in turn was carrying out the design of exiled banker
Mukhtar Ablyazov, the president’s son-in-law Rahat Aliev, also in
exile.... We can anticipate that opposition politicians abroad –
classed as enemies of the state – will feature large in the case.

IWPR: Do you think the authorities will keep their promise of ensuring
the trial is open?

Grishin: The first trial day was open to the public. Not everyone was
able to get in, as the courtroom wasn’t big enough. But there were no
reports of rights activists or journalists being denied access. It
seems to be in the authorities’ interest to hold an open trial....
That way [they can argue that] Kazakstan is honouring its initial
pledges to conduct an inquiry that is as open as possible.

But let’s see how it carries on, particularly if concerns are raised
about torture – cited by relatives of some of the defendants.

IWPR: What’s the public reaction to the trial been in Kazakstan?

Grishin: There has been some public interest, but no outcry. The trial
certainly isn’t headline news for the whole of Kazakstan. Just as
Kazakstan’ regions differ one from another, society is divided as
well. For people in Mangistau region [where Aktau and Janaozen are
located], it’s the key event of the moment. There’s some interest in
it in Almaty, where people are generally more interested in politics.
For the rest of the country, it’s just another passing event.

IWPR: Given the number of defendants, this trial could take some time.

Grishin: It’s hard to say what they [the authorities] are planning for
the trial. It’s possible they will be watching to see the reaction –
if interest in it continues, they may decide to get it over with as
soon as possible, to avoid reminding people of the event and stirring

But there’s also another way of making everyone lose interest.
Hearings can be endlessly postponed to test the patience of people who
need to travel [to Aktau]. That’s common practice.

In any case, the decision won’t come from the court in Aktau. It will
be taken in the president’s office.

Interview conducted by Saule Mukhametrakhimova, IWPR Central Asia editor.


Tense mood at start of court case in which demonstrators, not those
who fired shots, are on trial.

By Saule Mukhametrakhimova

The start of the trial of 37 defendants accused of involvement in
unrest in the western oil town of Janaozen was marred by delays and
overcrowding in the courtroom.

Fourteen people died and over 100 were injured when police opened fire
on crowds of protesters in the town on December 16. Another person
died during unrest in the nearby village of Shetpe.

The defendants – two of them minors, and all but two male – are
accused of a variety of criminal offences including arson, robbery,
destruction of property and attacking the police. The prosecution has
cited over 100 victims, mainly the owners of businesses damaged in
arson attacks.

Galym Ageleuov, head of the Kazakstan human rights group Liberty, is
observing the trial, and told IWPR that most of the prosecution
witnesses are police officers.

The case is being heard in the city of Aktau rather than in Janaozen,
150 kilometres away, because the authorities were concerned about
possible trouble in the defendants’ home town.

The start of proceedings on March 27 was delayed by more than five
hours when one of the defendants failed to appear – he was unaware
that the venue had been changed to a youth centre that provided more
space than court premises.

Even so, at least 100 relatives and friends of the defendants were
prevented from entering. Ageleuov told IWPR that police limited access
to one family member per defendant.

Members of a public commission of inquiry into Janaozen, including
opposition politician Bulat Abilov, unsuccessfully petitioned Aktau’s
mayor demand to provide a bigger venue.

For some of the relatives who were granted access, it was the first
time they had seen the accused since their detentions, and there were
emotional scenes in the courtroom.

The accused were ranged along four benches inside a glass cage in the
makeshift courtroom. The Janaozen violence stemmed from a long-running
oil industry strike, and Aguleuov said the oil workers sat in the
front row.

On the first day, some defence lawyers alerted the court to concerns
that their clients were assaulted when they were initially detained in

The proceedings were generally calm, but Ageleuov told IWPR that
relatives of the accused applauded and cheered when one of the victims
– a woman whose business is said to have suffered damage valued at
over 300,000 US dollars – appeared and said she was withdrawing her
complaint and damages claim.

In a Facebook update, Ageleuov said the mood was heavier on day two,
as the judge declined defence requests for some of the accused to be
granted temporary release on health grounds.

The start of the trial was attended by representatives from the OSCE
mission in Kazakstan, the United States embassy, the Norwegian
Helsinki Committee and other human rights groups, as well as
non-government organisations engaged in investigating events in

There were also journalists, including some from opposition newspapers
and TV. They were allowed to do some filming before proceedings began,
and then followed the trial in a separate room with a TV screen.

Ageleuov said the Aktau trial is part of a wider process relating to Janaozen.

Another group of accused – mainly oil industry activists and
opposition members including Alga party leader Vladimir Kozlov, and
human rights Serik Saparali – will stand trial separately at an as yet
unknown date.

They are accused of “inciting social discord”, a serious charge
carrying a prison sentence of up to ten years. They were not part of
the Janaozen unrest on December 16, but had expressed for the
protesting oilmen and were subsequently involved in setting up an
independent inquiry.

Perhaps to create an impression of balance, the authorities are also
moving against a limited number of police and officials.

Five policemen who were in Janaozen have been accused of “exceeding
their authority”. They are under house arrest but no trial date has
been set.

Another case involves a officials accused of embezzling funds, the
suggestion being that their wrongdoing contributed to the unrest. They
include the former mayor of Janaozen and managers of the state oil
company’s social fund. Again, the case has not reached trial stage.

Saule Mukhametrakhimova is IWPR Central Asia editor.

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a
unique insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local
journalists, the service publishes news and analysis from across
Central Asia on a weekly basis.

The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty,
Bishkek, Tashkent and London, which supports media development and
encourages better local and international understanding of the region.

IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund.
The service is published online in English and Russian.

The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or
of IWPR.

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Senior Editor
and Acting Managing Editor: John MacLeod; Central Asia Programme
Director: Abakhon Sultonnazarov; Central Asia Editor: Saule

Borden; Head of Programmes: Sam Compton.

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************

IWPR – Giving Voice, Driving Change

To contact IWPR please go to: http://iwpr.net/contact

IWPR - Europe, 48 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK
Tel: +44 20 7831 1030

IWPR – United States, 729 15th Street, NW Suite 500, Washington, DC
20005, United States
Tel: +1 202 393 5641

Stichting IWPR Nederland, Eisenhowerlaan 77 K, 2517 KK Den Haag, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 70 338 9016

For further details on this project and other information services and
media programmes, go to: http://iwpr.net/

ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2009 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting

**** http://iwpr.net/ **********************************************************
This electronic mail message and any attached files are intended solely for the 
named recipients and may contain confidential and proprietary business 
information of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) and its 
affiliates. If you are not the named addressee, you should not disseminate, 
distribute or copy this e-mail.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting. 48 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK. 
Registered with charitable status in the United Kingdom (charity reg. no: 
1027201, company reg. no: 2744185); the United States under IRS Section 
501(c)(3); and The Netherlands as a charitable foundation.

Reply via email to