Kazakhstan’s Shameful Mass Trials

Post image for Kazakhstan’s Shameful Mass Trials

by Joshua Foust on 3/27/2012 · 10 comments

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.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 10 comments }

Nate Schenkkan March 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

I’m pretty sure the top photo is from the trial in Zhanaozen, which Aktau Lada is covering with the hashtag #актаусуд. The terrorism trial in Atyrau is closed to the public, as RFE/RL reports, and I don’t think Aktau Lada is covering it.

Joshua Foust March 29, 2012 at 4:56 am

Oh God I made that mistake. That’s my bad, I corrected it — thanks.

This serves me right for posting something before leaving on a strip where I won’t have my laptop, sigh.

oldschool boy March 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Joshua,

The issues you raise are important, but your tone is rather speculative and very melodramatic. An here is why:
“…we know nothing about how they’re being charged, presented with evidence, or allowed to defend themselves.” – The fact that you do not know anything does not necessarily make things faulty, does it?
“…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.” – Do you have reasons to think otherwise?
“…apparently deciding it is a crime to be murdered by the police.” This is funny. Are murderd people being tried?
“…the judge suddenly decided to delay the trial at the last minute when one defendant didn’t show up.” How is it bad?

I am not saying that you are not right (may be you are) but unfortunately, the tone of this post represents a piece of speculative and sensational journalism that is so condemned on this web-site. (and you do not have to answer the questions if you do not want to).

Joshua Foust March 29, 2012 at 4:57 am

OSB,

I accept your criticism about tone, but really — do you have any faith in the Kazakh justice system? Especially on politically sensitive matters it just doesn’t function very well.

Yerbulan April 5, 2012 at 4:42 am

“…the judge suddenly decided to delay the trial at the last minute when one defendant didn’t show up.”
and BTW, it is required by legislation, you can’t start trial if even one of the defendants didn’t show up (because otherwise he won’t be able to defend himself)

guest 3113 March 28, 2012 at 12:24 am

But Kazakh government allows the judiciary to decide the question of responsibility for the committed crimes

TimurK March 28, 2012 at 1:31 am

@guest 3113 – LOL. Keep them coming.

Nate is right on the photo from @aktaulada. Unless, of course, it is the same people on trial in Aktau and Atyrau, funded by the same person… ooh, conspiracy. On an entirely unrelated note:
http://en.tengrinews.kz/crime/8704/

Alina Osipova March 28, 2012 at 2:09 am

Yes, the trial will not be easy. I hope that conflict with the law will suffer a just punishment.

Билли Холидей March 28, 2012 at 3:07 am

The trial is not going to be easy but open, available and fair, I am sure in all these, because our Supreme court is unbiassed!!!!!!!!!!

edik March 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

sorry this is my contry,i”m patriot.in my repoblic terrorizm no problems,becouse no shoice in my stete peopuls educeted.yes this is my pozition

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