A-INFOS NEWS SERVICE
What is happening in Kazakhstan?
By Rob Jones, A-Infos News Service, 22 January 1998
Russia - a whole spate of recent strikes within Kazakhstan. In one of these, in the city of Kentai, metal workers seized the City Council buildings and the army had to be called in to put down the disturbances. Unfortunately, brutal repression is not limited to Kazakhstan - the other central Asian republics are almost certainly worse. In neighbouring Turkmenistan, it is rumoured that after an anti Presidential demonstration last year, 180 were arrested and two days later all shot.
Against this background the opposition to the regime is in a very weak position. Notwithstanding an almost blanket ban on strikes and demonstrations, there have been many protests in the last year but with the communication difficulties and general repressive atmosphere most parties and organisations are disorganised and geographically isolated.
President Nazarbayev is attempting to neutralise the opposition by declaring this year to be the year of "Peace and Social Harmony" at which parties agree not to organise active opposition to his regime. Even within the once pro-Presidential Socialist Party there is growing opposition (indeed in Kustanai, the party secretary organised a meeting for local trade unionists addressed by a representative of the CWI). In 1991 this party called for a mixed economy insisting only that each factory "should have a good boss". Now however, a section of the party is demanding a return to state ownership. It is however likely, that at least as a national party the SP will soon disband itself. A new Presidential party - the Liberal Party - is being launched - ultra neo liberal and anti communist at all costs.
At least in the near future the main opposition party is likely to continue to be the communist party and the "Worker's Movement - Solidarity". The communist party was formed in opposition to the ruling elite's transformation of the then CPSU into a pro market party. Nevertheless, a section of the leadership now rejects the principles of "socialism" with talk of the need to support a mixed economy and of signing up to the peace pact. If the SP does disband, sections will return to the CP strengthening that trend. There is however a trend in the party attempting to block those moves, which includes the newly formed youth section and the "Workers Movement".
The "Worker's Movement - Solidarity" arose out of the strikes at the beginning of the 90's mainly in the Russian speaking areas. Some of its current leaders sheepishly admit to having backed Yeltsin then. Even its name, (many leading Russian communists believe that Solidarity and the Russian miners movement of 1988-90 were part of a CIA funded, papal, zionist plot to overthrow the Soviet Union) indicate that it has a bit more of a healthy base than some of the other attempts to restore the worker's movement in the CIS. It is strongest in industrial and mining areas such as Karaganda and Ust Kamenogorsk and has lead a number of strikes and protests.
All of these organisations currently work in a block with the main nationalist opposition party in campaigning for the establishment of democratic rights in Kazakhstan. These nationalist organisations which, 3 or four years ago were very pro market have toned down their support for capitalism so blatently have western firms attempting to exploit the position in the country. Youth were recently forced to protest, for example, after tobacco giant Philip Morris organised discotheques for school students at which the entrance charge was an empty cigarette packet!
Kazakhstan could not be in a worse geographical position - caught between China and Russia with only the other even more repressive central Asian republics protecting it from Iran and Afghanistan. Western multinationals have come in to callously exploit its oil and other natural resources. Quite clearly it can not prosper under capitalism. However, the task of fighting for the alternative - genuine socialism- is huge. It can only be welcomed that there are people in Kazakhstan who are prepared to try.
THE CASE AGAINST IONUR & SERGEI
Throughout the year, the militia have been threatening Ionur. He had to hide for three days in March. On 1st of May, the police picked him out from others on the demo and tried to attack him but other demonstrators protected him - the militia threatened him saying they would "get hold of him somehow". As you know he was eventually arrested towards end of May after graffitti appeared in the town. 3 were arrested, Ionur, Sergei Kolokolov (who is 27 not 20 as I thought) and Nikolai who is 17. Confessions were forced out of Sergei and Nikolai. Sergei lives alone with a very ill mother. At one time 15 militia and KNB men were questionning him and threatening to charge him with "betraying the homeland" to send him down for 20 years. Nikolai was put under pressure of his school teachers etc.
Ionur was extremely badly treated. Ionur lost both his parents when he was 16 in a very tragic way - his mother in some sort of fit attacked his father, killing him in front of Ionur. The police played on this and kept threatening Ionur saying he was alone, none of his friends could or would help. If he confessed however, he would be released. He refused. The bad treatment only stopped when telegrams of protest started to arrive.
The three were then released, being told that although no evidence was found, the charges were still outstanding. Their passports were confiscated.
The prosecution document and behavior of the militia after their second arrest make it quite clear that the charges are trumped up. Of the 36 witnesses, only those defending Ionur turned up on the 30th making it obvious that the militia had forewarned the others that the case wouldn't be heard on that date. All through the case, the militia have been threatening to have the trial in closed session - confirming that they, not the court control the process. In the court papers is a document sent to the local communist party secretary asking if Sergei and Ionur are members - which if it was a genuine criminal case and not one of political persecution would have no bearing. Ionur aparently has a good advocate who is chair of the city's board of advocates. However, it is not clear how independent the advocates are able to be. When Sergei was being questionned and he decided to confess, his advocate, a certain Uteshova attempted to advice him not to do so. She was physically ejected from the question room and removed from the case. This is detailed in the prosecution case as if it was quite acceptable for the police to remove an advocate.
VS thinks that the three were arrested again as a direct result of an order from the capital to step up repression in advance of the autumn, when further street protests were likely. Some of the evidence is clearly fabricated, such as that of one witness who claims that VS was heard to say that the three were "scum, trash, loathsome" which he says he never said. He thinks this is an attempt to demoralise the three by undermining their confidence in those helping them. Further, when supporters attempt to organise a collection of money to pay for advocates on the streets, they were cleared off by the police. On the other hand when VS has questionned, the police threatened him with criminal charges if he didn't give evidence against the others. VS is an elected member of the City Aximat (City Council).
No date has yet been set for new trial but even according to Kazakhstan law it should be soon. Strictly speaking accused can only be held for a month with an extension granted by court in certain cases. However the effect of international protests has so far shocked the local authorities and forced them to be careful about what they do. So if pressure is kept up, at least some gains can be made.
The prosecution papers outline the case against the three and the material to be submitted by the witnesses. The first page outlines how Ionur and Sergei set up a "criminal group"- this phrase is repeated frequently in an attempt to give weight to these charges. What did this criminal group do? Apparently on the night of 25-26th May, it is alleged that the three went around Uralsk painting slogans on buildings that insulted the President and local leaders and that one of them then phoned a bomb threat to the local Council building. On the basis of this, Sergei is charged with:
Ionur is charged with:
Nikolai is charged with:
Many of the witnesses cited merely testify to the fact that when they went to work on the following morning they saw different items of graffitti and leaflets stuck on walls. Only in two cases, witnesses saw the "graffitiists" - but were only able to identify them as three people of european nationality - no-one identified any of the three. The person answering the bomb hoax testifies to the voice belonging to a male but was unable to make any further identification.
Other witnesses testify to the good character of all three.
The whole case therefore hinges on the confessions forced out of Sergei and Nikolai. Sergei said in his confession that they disposed of the paint jars in a waste bin, which he then pointed out to police - but they found no jar, explaining the bins had since been emptied. (No search was made of the tip apparently).
Sergei's mother however testified that both Sergei and Ionur had been at her flat throughout that night.
Two items of evidence were found - red paint splashes on a pair of shoes in Sergei's flat - which match those of the paint used for the graffitti. And Ionur's fingerprint was found on one of the leaflets. However, both of these items are thought to have been planted by VS.
One of the most convincing arguments against Ionur's guilt however is the nature of the slogans painted on the wall. " Revolution is great" "Nazarbayev and Jakupova should be shot", "Wait for terror", "Kill the mayor and burn foreign cars" "Death to the bourgeois". These slogans were accompanied by the anarchist letter "A". Ionur is not an anarchist and is proud to call himself a marxist - he instinctively dislikes the provocative nature of some of the anarchist material produced in the countries of the former USSR and when we met him over the summer was cursing some anarchists for the irresponsible way in which they throw out slogans calling for violence etc. To anyone who knows Ionur it is inconceivable that he wrote such graffitti.
It is now clear that a case is being fabricated against Ionur to silence him - even if he was guilty of the graffitti, that would justify no more than a charge of petty hooliganism. Instead a whole criminal plot is being accredited to him, threatening him with several years in jail. Anyone who claims to fight for justice and against political repression thereofre should try and maintain the pressure on the Nazarbayev regime, so that they can not send this young fighter for worker's rights to jail on trumped up charges.
A-Infos News Service
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