25 June 2002
FORMER KAZAKH MINISTER OF ENERGY AND TRADE ON TRIAL
Kazakhstan's Supreme Court in Astana started the trial of former Kazakh Minister of Energy and Trade Mukhtar Abliyazov, who is now a leading member of Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice movement, on June 24. Judge Qalidollah Shauqarov allowed only one journalist from any media outlet to be present, but no audio or video equipment was permitted in the courtroom. Tolen Toqtasynov, a deputy of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) was the only person allowed to present Abliyazov's interests as a so-called social defender. Other political supporters of Abliyazov and activists of the opposition movement Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice (DVK) were not allowed to participate as social defenders. Toqtasynov complained at the trial that investigators gave him only 20 hours to acquaint himself with the 12 volume indictment, adding that it was not physically possible to look through all the documents even superficially in such a short period of time.
Abliyazov said on 24 and 25 June that all the accusations against him are politically motivated and were brought only after he helped found DVK last November. He also asked the judge to let him stay at home at least "under house arrest" and come to court when necessary, but Shauqarov rejected that request. Prosecutors have charged Abliyazov with having embezzled about $3.7 million dollars while he was Energy and Trade Minister in 1998-1999. They claim Abliyazov illegally funneled the money from a state-run company to a company in which he had private financial interests.
Prosecutors were criticized by lawyers and associates of Abliyazov at the trial and after it for having referred to Abliyazov as "a criminal, a person who committed serious crimes." According to Azamat party co-chairman Piotr Svoik, Abliyazov's current status is not that of a "criminal," and it will not be clear whether he is a criminal until the end of the trial. At a press conference in Astana late on 24 June, Svoik said it looks as though Kazakhstan's prosecutors have forgotten the ethics of jurisprudence and are not able to express their thoughts clearly and comprehensively.
The chairman of Kazakhstan's Bureau on Human Rights, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, said at the press conference that if Abliyazov and his colleague, former Pavlodar Oblast governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, had not opposed the regime and President Nursultan Nazarbayev, they would not have faced any criminal charges.
It was announced officially by Pavlodar City Interior Ministry Department on 25 June that Zhaqiyanov's case has been sent to the Regional Prosecutor's office. That means the date of Zhaqiyanov's trial may be announced very soon. He faces charges similar to those brought against Abliyazov.
KAZAKH PARLIAMENT'S UPPER HOUSE APPROVES LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES
The Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakh parliament) has approved and adopted the draft law on political parties adopted by the Mazhilis on 21 June. The law says that any political party should have at least 50,000 members and have branches in every oblast of the country, with at least 700 members in every region, in order to be officially registered. The draft bill was prepared by the pro-presidential OTAN party, which is the country's largest. Most of its members are employees of state-run organizations. According to Communist Party of Kazakhstan leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the law will destroy all political parties in Kazakhstan that oppose the ruling authorities. Naghashbay Esmurzayev, a member of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL that adoption of such a law could be characterized as a drift towards a Soviet-style single party system.
OSCE, PRESIDENTIAL STRATEGIC STUDIES INSTITUTE HOLD ROUND CONFERENCE ON ISLAM AND REGIONAL SECURITY
The OSCE office in Almaty and the Presidential Institute of Strategic Studies organized an international conference in Almaty on 24-25 June in which Central Asian experts and specialists from other countries took part. The main issue discussed was the role of Islam in Central Asian societies and the possibility of religious extremism in the region. The situation in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and the southern regions of Kazakhstan was discussed and analyzed.