Freedom House strongly condemns the conviction of Kazakhstani opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov. Mr. Kozlov was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for inciting social hatred, calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order of the state, and creating an organized criminal group. The charges were brought following the authorities’ violent suppression of riots in the western town of
Freedom House monitored the trial from its beginning on August 16.The trial was marred by glaring procedural violations and fundamental legal issues that violated the right to a fair trial of Mr. Kozlov and his co-defendants Akzhanat Aminov and Serik Sapargali. Mr. Aminov and Mr. Sapargali received conditional sentences of five and three years, respectively. The charge of inciting social discord rested on classifying “the authorities” as a social group against which the defendants incited hatred. Futhermore, although the defendants were charged with participating in an organized criminal group led by exiled oligarch Muktar Ablyazov, Mr. Ablyazov was not charged with a crime, and the defense’s request for him to appear as a witness via Skype was denied.
“Kozlov’s conviction criminalizes legitimate political activity,” said Susan Corke, Freedom House’s director for
Freedom House is deeply concerned that the central charge of the prosecution, participation in an organized criminal group led by Mr. Ablyazov, will serve as a pretext for cracking down on other members of the opposition, as well as members of independent civil society.
“This conviction should serve to remind everyone that