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Kazakh Report: July 9, 2002

9 July 2002

Zauresh Battalova, who is a member of the Senate (the upper chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament), together with TAN -TV Channel editor Baqytzhan Ketebayev and the head of the Kazakh Bureau on Human Rights, Yevgeniy Zhovtis, held a press conference at Almaty's National Press Club on July 9. They stated that the previous evening, two unknown persons approached Ketebayev's eldest brother Muratbek in the street and demanded $8,000 from him which they claimed he had agreed to pay them for firebombing the editorial ofice of the weekly "Delovoye Obozreniye-Respublika" (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 23, 24 and 28 May 2002). Muratbek Ketebayev was reportedly appalled by that request and asked the two men to leave him alone. At that juncture two more men appeared and asked both Muratbek Ketebayev and the first two men to follow them. When Muratbek refused to do so, a police car came and detained all of them.

According to Battalova, Kazakh officials are trying now to persuade Kazakh citizens and the outside world that the Molotov cocktail attack on the office of "Delovoye Obozreniye-Respublika" was organized by editors of the newspaper themselves. Baqytzhan Ketebayev, who is a co-founder of "Delovoye Obozreniye-Respublika," said that even though the whole story was "ridiculous," he is afraid that his brother might be brought to trial due to the "provocation." It was also reported at the press conference that the two men who demanded the money from Muratbek Ketebayev had "confessed" that he had promised to pay them $8,000 in the event that they destroyed the offices of "Delovoye Obozreniye -Respublika." Muratbek Ketebayev was released from detention but told not to leave the town while investigations are under way.

Ermurat Bapi, who is Editor-in-Chief of the opposition newspaper "SolDat," told RFE/RL that the whole story is unbelievable. He said it was very strange that police immediately appeared on the spot where the conversation between Muratbek Ketebayev and his two alleged partners was taking place. The premises of "SolDat" were also targeted in May at almost the same time as " Delovoye Obozreniye-Respublika." Four unknown persons forced their way into the office, brutally beat two journalists and took away all the equipment. It was later reported that two drug addicts had confessed to the robbery.

The lawyers of former Energy, Industry and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov, who is a leading member of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, told a press conference in Astana on 9 July that investigators in their client's case acted illegally. Abliyazov is accused of abuse of his official position and is on trial at the Supreme Court. Lawyer Gulam Mazanov said that investigators tapped all Abliyazov's telephone calls under a special Order issued by Kazakhstan's Prosecutor on September 8, 1999. Abliyazov's lawyers pointed out that although such an order permits listening in to phone conversations for 30 days, the investigators had continued to bug Abliyazov's telephone even after the 30 day period was over. Taking that fact into account, Abliyazov's lawyers demanded that all the materials obtained by the investigators as a result of their telephone surveillance should not be considered as valid evidence at the trial, since those materials had been obtained "illegally." But prosecutors at the trial demanded the materials to be taken into account as evidence anyway.

Tolen Toqtasynov, who is a deputy of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament) told RFE/RL that Abliyazov's sentence will be determined not by the judge but by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He added that the whole case was politically motivated.

Tosiu Tsunudzaki, the newly appointed Ambassador of Japan to Kazakhstan, presented his official credentials to President Nazarbayev at the Presidential Palace in Astana on July 9. The two men then held talks behind closed doors. Ambassador Tsunudzaki told journalists after the talks that President Nazarbayev expressed his gratitude to Japanese government and people for their financial support and assistance to Kazkahstan. Nazarbayev also expressed his willingness to see the Japanese Prime Minister as a special guest in Kazkahstan this year. The possible move of the Japanese Embassy from Almaty to Astana was also discussed, and will be referred to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.