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Kazakh Report: May 11, 2001


11 May 2001

TRIAL OF FOUR ALLEGED MEMBERS OF HEZB-UT-TAHRIR PARTY ENDS
South Kazakhstan Oblast Court Judge Qamytbay Spabek told RFE/RL on 11 May that the trial in Shymkent of four alleged members of the ultra-religious Hezb-ut-Tahrir party ended the previous day. The four Kazakh citizens were arrested in the town of Turkistan last autumn while distributing leaflets calling for the establishing of an Islamic Khalifat in Central Asia. Two of the accused, Nurghazy Arqabayev and Zhetirgen Zhetisbayev, were found guilty of participating in anti-constitutional activities and sentenced to several years in jail. But due to the Presidential Decree on an amnesty adopted to mark the tenth anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence, both were released from custody. Two other persons, Abduali Ismailov and Mamedsapa Abdikarimov, were sentenced to one year and 10 months, and one year and five months of prison respectively. The court failed to prove the charge of involvement in preparing terrorist actions brought against the four accused. Judge Spabek told RFE/RL that lawyers for the accused will appeal the verdict in Kazakhstan's Supreme Court.

One of those lawyers, Alquat Akhmetov, told RFE/RL in early May that all the accusations against his client are groundless, adding that the four persons had nothing to do with each other and met only in the mosque where they used to come regularly for Namaz (Islamic prayers).

FORMER SOVIET PRESIDENT VISITS ALMATY
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev arrived to Almaty on 10 May at the special invitation of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. On May 11, Gorbachev met with the chief editors of local leading media outlets and Kazakhstan's so-called "Business Elite." Correspondents of foreign news agencies and media organizations, including correspondents of RFE/RL, were not admitted to that meeting. Gorbachev told the gathered audience that the countries of the former Soviet Union should establish a new alliance that corresponds, as he said, "to the demands of the present time."

Sakhip Zhanabayeva, one of the leaders of Kazakhstan's Workers Movement, held a press conference on 11 May at which she said that Gorbachev was responsible for shedding the blood of Kazakh youths in Almaty's Central Square in December 1986.

Gorbachev is scheduled to hold talks with President Nazarbaev on 12 May.

KAZAKH FOREIGN MINISTER HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
Foreign Minister Erlan Idrisov told a press conference in Astana on May 8 that the last few days in April and the beginning of May, were very active days for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Idrisov stressed the importance of the seventh summit of the six Turcophone states (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) in Istanbul on April 26-27. He added that during such meetings presidents usually exchange opinions without signing any concrete documents or agreements.

The meeting of foreign ministers of the five Shanghai Forum states (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation and Tajikistan) was also very crucial, Idrisov said. That session outlined the agenda for the Shanghai Forum summit scheduled to be held in Shanghai on June 15.

Idrisov described his recent trip to the United States as very fruitful. He said senior U.S. officials are very interested in further cooperation with Kazakhstan. He added that since 1993, about $13 billion has been invested in the Kazakh economy, including more than $4 billion by American companies. He mentioned that although U.S. companies are particularly interested in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector, in future Kazakhstan will try to attract U.S. investments in other sectors of the economy.

Idrisov said security policy in Central Asia is currently one of the main priorities of America's foreign policy.

COMMUNISTS OF ALMATY MEET
The Almaty Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan met in the former capital on May 8. Obkom First Secretary Arsentii Apolimov said that it is necessary to hold early elections to the Kazakh Parliament and local councils in order to prepare the basis for a Communist victory comparable to that in Moldova earlier this year. He also said that all elderly citizens and World War II veterans should have the right to free medical care and public transportation restored to them.

Apolimov condemned as a "thoughtless decision" President Nazarbaev's decision to move the administrative center of Almaty Oblast from the city of Almaty to Taldy-Qorghan.

KAZAKH NATIONAL BANK CHAIRMAN SAYS MERGER OF TWO MAJOR BANKS IS POSSIBLE
Grigorii Marchenko, who is chairman of Kazakhstan's National Bank, told a press conference on May 8 that two major banks, Kazkommertzbank and Halyq Saving Bank, may merge provided that three conditions put forward by the Kazakh National Bank are fulfilled. He said that the two banks must agree 1) to continue paying pensions to elderly citizens of Kazakhstan; 2) to keep accounts of Kazakhstan's state and national companies and organizations active; and 3) to continue managing existing pension funds.

KAZAKH TENGE GETS WEAKER
Kazakhstan's national currency, the tenge, started losing its value vis-a-vis the US$ in the last few days. On May 2, the rate was 145.55 Tenges for $1, while on 8 May the tenge traded at 146.15 for $1.

PRESIDENT NAZARBAEV'S DAUGHTER STAGED A CONCERT
President Nazarbaev's daughter Darigha, who is Chief of the Directors Council of Kazakhstan's main media outlet, the Khabar News Agency, staged a charity concert in Almaty on May 7. Nazarbaeva performed Russian romantic songs and also a Kazakh national song together with professional opera singer Maira Mukhammed-qyzy, a Kazakh repatriate from Eastern Turkistan.

Nazarbaeva's husband Rakhat Aliyev, who is Chief of the Kazakh National Security Committee's Department in Almaty Oblast, and her mother Sara, who is President of the Bobek Mercy Foundation, were reportedly present at the concert. Kazakh businessmen donated about 25 million Tenges which will benefit the Almaty-based Council of War Veterans.

KAZAKH PRESIDENT RESHUFFLES TOP OFFICIALS
On 4 May President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a decree appointing Minister of Culture, Information and Social Concord Altynbek Sarsenbayev to the post of Secretary of Kazakhstan's Security Council. Sarsenbayev replaces Marat Tazhin, who was named chairman of the National Security Committee (KNB, former KGB), succeeding Alnur Musayev, who was named head of the Presidential Body-Guards.

OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY CHAIRMAN HELD TALKS WITH KAZAKH PRESIDENT
Adrian Severin, the Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, held talks with Kazakh President Nazarbaev on May 4. Severin told journalists after those talks that further cooperation between Kazakhstan and the OSCE was discussed. He added: "... I have also told the President that while we ask for improvements and modernization in Kazakhstan, we ask and we are looking for improvement and modernization of our own organization. In both these directions we should work together."

Severin said that he and Nazarbaev also discussed regional security in Central Asia. With regard to the possible intrusion of armed extremists into Central Asian states this summer, Severin said "... In this respect two points should be made. One - We think that this problem could be easier solved at the regional level. Two - We do not think that it is either security and economic progress or democracy and modernization."

Severin held similar meetings with the speakers of both chambers of Kazakhstan's Parliament (Senate and Mazhilis), members of the Central Election Commission, NGOs, and political figures on May 3. On 30 April he held meetings in Almaty with leaders and activists of opposition political parties.

SOME HUNGER STRIKERS AT SOKOLOV-SARBAY PLANT STOPPED STRIKING
Talas Saghymbekov, who is Vice Chairman of Kazakhstan's Confederation of Free Trade Unions, told RFE/RL by phone on May 4 that 12 of the 25 hunger strikers at the Sokolov-Sarbay iron ore developing plant have abandoned their protest due to health problems. Ten of those who stopped the action of protest are elderly workers of the plant, some of them retired. Two other strikers had to stop their hunger strike because of ulcers, but 13 workers are continuing their hunger strike in the hope that the plant's management will annul its decision to fire some of the facility's workers.

Also on 4 May, the administration of the plant announced the dismissal of a large number of workers on the grounds of "industrial necessities." A conference on the plight of the plant's workers and their families began on 4 May in the town of Rudniy in Qostanay Oblast. The chairman of Kazakhstan's Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Leonid Solomin, is participating in that conference.

Talas Saghymbekov also told RFE/RL that thirty bus drivers in the city of Kokshetau are continuing the strike they began on April 30 to demand a salary increase. Saghymbekov said bus drivers in the cities of Qaraghandy, Pavlodar and Ekibastuz may join the strike in the immediate future.

KAZAKH COMMUNIST LEADER HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
At a press conference on May 4 in Almaty, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, told journalists that his party's congress, which was held in Almaty on April 21, reached a decision to move headquarters of the Communist Party's Almaty Oblast Committee from Almaty to Taldy-Qorghan, and that of the Aqmola Oblast Committee from Astana to Kokshetau. No concrete reasons were mentioned. RFE/RL correspondents suggest that it is very likely that the decision was made in order to sideline Communist activists in Almaty and Astana whose oppose Abdildin.

PRESS FREEDOM DAY MARKED IN KAZAKHSTAN
A press conference to mark Press Freedom Day was held at the National Press Club in Almaty on 3 May. Kazakh journalist Rozlana Taukina presented special grants to the most prominent journalists of Kazakhstan on behalf of the Soros-Kazakhstan Foundation. The first grant was given posthumously to Dulat Tolegenov, a journalist from Aqtobe, who was murdered by unknown persons last year. Sharip Quraqpaev, Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper "DAT," also received such a grant. "DAT" was one of the first independent newspapers in Kazakhstan, but had to cease publication in 1999 due to pressure from the Kazakh authorities.

ENI-AGIP ANNOUNCES FIRST OIL FINDINGS IN WEST QASHAGHAN
Italy's ENI-Agip, the main operator of the OKIOC Consortium developing oil fields in West Kazakhstan, announced in a 3 May press release its first oil finding in the West Qashaghan offshore Caspian field. The press release said oil was registered at a depth of 4,250 meters and that the first analyses of the newly discovered oil are promising.

CENSUS OF POTENTIAL MILITARY SERVICEMEN TO BE HELD IN KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakhstan's Defense Ministry announced on May 3 that a special census will be held in Kazakhstan this summer in order to determine the exact number of citizens eligible for mobilization in case of a national emergency. RFE/RL correspondents phoned the Ministry and asked if the measure was connected with the anticipated intrusion of armed radical Islamists from Afghan-Tajik territory into Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, as in 199-2000. The duty officer said that the census was planned long ago and has no connection with the possible threat from the south.

ALLEGED ORGANIZER OF TERRORIST ACTION IN BUYNAKSK ARRESTED IN ALMATY
Kazakhstan Today News Agency reported on 3 May that a citizen of Russian Federation, Ziyautdin Ziyautdinov, was arrested by Kazakh National Security officers in the former Kazakh capital Almaty, earlier in the week. According to President Nazarbaev's son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev, who is Chief of the Kazakh National Security Committee's Department in Almaty, the arrested person is one of the organizers of a terrorist attack in the North Caucasus town of Buynaksk. The attack killed dozens of innocent persons. Ziyautdinov was in possession of a forged Kyrgyz passport when detained. He will be extradited to Russia.

ANOTHER RUSSIAN CITIZEN ARRESTED IN EKIBASTUZ
One more Russian citizen, allegedly a member of a Wahhabbi sect, was arrested in Ekibastuz, Pavlodar Oblast, North Kazakhstan, in early May. Quanysh Qabdiev, the Chief of the Anti-Terrorist Group of the Kazakh National Security Committee's Department in Pavlodar, detained a person in illegal possession of a Makarov pistol earlier this week. Further investigations brought the officer to an apartment in Ekibastuz where video-tapes and books in Arabic, propagandizing radical Islam were found. Investigations are underway.

DANGEROUS CRIMINAL ARRESTED IN ALMATY
Police in Almaty detained wanted criminal Mikhail Yugai late on 8 May. Yugai is accused of organizing several murders and robberies. Police had been searching for him since 1998.

GROUP OF KAZAKH CITIZENS PLANS PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA ON FOOT
A group of Kazakh citizens led by Bolat Bala-Haji is planning to begin the Haj, the religious pilgrimage to Mecca, on foot soon. The group consist of dozens of persons, of whom the youngest is a 18 year-old girl and the oldest a 65 year-old man. Bala-Haji told RFE/RL's Almaty bureau that the pilgrimage could take 10 months.

BODY OF DECEASED KAZAKH WRITER BROUGHT FROM MOSCOW TO ALMATY
Friends and relatives of Qaltay Mukhamedzhan, a prominent Kazakh writer and Editor-in-Chief of the weekly "Turkistan," who died in a Moscow clinic earlier this week at the age of 72, brought his body to Almaty from Moscow by plane late on 8 May. Mukhamedzhan was buried at Almaty's Kensay Cemetery on 11 May. Mukhamedzhan was one of the supporters and first authors of RFE/RL's Kazakh Broadcasting Service after Kazakhstan declared its independence in 1991.

KAZAKHSTAN MARKS VICTORY DAY
Special events took place on 9 May in both Astana and Almaty to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. In Astana, President Nazarbaev participated in the opening of the Monument to the Defenders of the Fatherland, which was made by Qaraghandy sculptors. In Almaty, World War II veterans and relatives of Manshuk Mametova and Aliya Moldagulova, two Kazakh war heroines, gathered at a sculpture erected in their memory.

On May 8, Zharmakhan Tuyaqbay, the chairman of the Mazhilis, the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's Parliament, met in Astana with World War II veterans. Deputies to the Kazakh SSR who perished during the war were honored at the meeting.

ASTANA-ENERGO-SERVICE TO SWITCH OFF ELECTRICITY SUPPLY TO ITS DEBTORS
Officials of the Astana-Energo-Service Company, which is the main supplier of electricity and heating to the Kazakh capital, Astana, told a press conference on May 10 that the company is owed an estimated total 2 billion Tenges ($10.307 million) by local firms and private households. They said that from now on, all debtors will be disconnected from the electricity and heating supply system if they do not pay on time. But they did not specify any deadline for such payment.

POLITICAL PARTIES WRITE TO U.S. CONGRESS, OSCE AND KAZAKH GENERAL PROSECUTOR
RFE/RL's bureau in Almaty received by fax on 10 May copies of two letters. One of the letters was written by a leading activist of pro-Nazarbaev Otan party, Arat Narmaghambetov, and was addressed to Kazakhstan's General Prosecutor, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Swiss Justice Ministry.

Narmaghambetov wrote that in recent months several articles have been published in Western periodicals, including the "Wall Street Journal," "Newsweek," the "Washington Post" and others, discusssing corruption among senior officials in Kazakhstan. Those articles discuss the possible involvement of Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev in illegal money transactions and bribery scandals. According to Narmaghambetov, President Nazarbaev has made several official and non-official statements last year and this year, denying that he has any foreign bank accounts. Taking that into account, Narmaghambetov wrote, the General Prosecutor should start suing those journals and newspapers abroad for "hurting dignity and honor of Kazakh leader."

The second letter was signed by leaders and activists of the opposition Communist Party, the Republican People Party of Kazakhstan, the Workers' Movement, Lad, Orleu, Zher-Ana and many others. The letter was addressed to the U.S. Congress and the OSCE. The authors of the letter said that the law on amnesty for owners of foreign bank accounts, to which huge amounts of money were illegally transferred from Kazakhstan had given the "green light" to some Kazakh top officials to launder their dirty money through Kazakh Banks. According to the letter's authors, all the "dirty money" will be sent back to foreign accounts.

In late1999 a big scandal around oil money, bribery and money laundering erupted in the West after the U.S. Justice Department and the Swiss authorities began investigations of illegal money transactions in which President Nazarbaev was believed to be involved. The Kazakh Parliament adopted a law on the first President of Kazakhstan last summer, which gave both Nazarbaev and members of his family life-long immunity against prosecution and almost limitless powers even after Nazarbaev's relinquishes the post of president. Earlier this year, the parliament adopted and the preident signed into law a bill amnestying all Kazakh shadow capital illegally transferred by top officials and businesmen to Western banks.

COMMUNIST PARTY OF KAZAKHSTAN RENT BY DISAGREEMENTS
The former Secretary of the Almaty Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Arsentii Apolimov, who was sacked from that position earlier this week by the party's chairman, Serikbolsyn Abdildin, held a press conference in Almaty on May 11. He characterized Abdildin as a person who broke all the regulations contained in the party's charter, adding that his behavior is very rude, and that Abdildin always offends his opponents by using vulgar words, thereby showing that he is "incapable of constructive discussions of either the external or internal problems faced by the party."

Another Communist Party activist, Valerian Zemlyanov, who is a deputy to the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's Parliament, told the Almaty-based newspaper "Vremya" newspaper earlier this week that Abdildin is not able to lead the party properly. One week ago, Abdildin dismised as groundless all the rumors about problems within his party.

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