The Kazakh terror group Jund al-Kilafah claimed responsibility for the crazy shootout in Toulouse, France, last week. Like its other claims for attacks outside of Kazakhstan, there’s very little evidence they actually do this beyond saying so on some website. Even so, it makes for an interesting evolution of the Kazakhstan Terror phenomenon, as it marks the first time the group even claims interest in Europe.
Back in October, the Kazakh government decided to put some 47 young men on trial for involvement in Jund al-Khilafah (the trial is closed to the public). Some of the men on trial were arrested, but authorities have admitted several are being tried in absentia. As that trial begins, we know nothing about how they’re being charged, presented with evidence, or allowed to defend themselves. Like too many other abusive justice systems in Central Asia, we have no reason to think the trial will be fair or will result in punishing the actual terrorists who planted bombs in Atyrau last year.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only mass trial going on in Kazakhstan right now. Kazakhstan has also decided to punish the rioters at Zhanaozen — apparently deciding it is a crime to be murdered by the police (above is a photo of the trial, which is posted by the invaluable @aktaulada twitter feed). Police were still arresting activists who marched in Zhanaozen as recently as a month ago, almost like it was retribution for daring to stand up to the government. Over the weekend, activists staged a small rally in Almaty to mark the hundredth day since the deadly riots in December. (Sadly, the murder of at least 17 protestors doesn’t spark the same degree of public anger that a lack of affordable housing does.)
At the start of the trial today in Aqtau, hundreds of people tried to enter the temporary courthouse to watch the proceedings, creating a minor stir as the authorities tried to figure out what to do with the over-capacity crowd.
As this Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty video shows, the judge suddenly decided to delay the trial at the last minute when one defendant didn’t show up, sparking outrage by onlookers and the accused’s families.
Both of these trials are a joke. They don’t demonstrate any interest on the part of Astana to establish justice, the rule of law, or hold anyone to account. They are meant to be empty, public show trials so the government can say it’s “doing something” to maintain order and counter terrorism. Are innocent people caught up in either trial? We cannot know, though we can probably assume some are. But so long as the government remains so secretive about why it is arresting people and how it knows they did things, we have no reason to trust either proceeding.