20 august 2017

Central Asia news

Another civil leader convicted in Kazakhstan

02.08.2017 10:19 msk

Fergana


Olesya Halabuzar
Olesya Halabuzar, the former chair of the Society of Young Professionals in Kazakhstan, was convicted to two years of restriction of liberty on 1 August. She was charged with hatred, however, it is clear that the true reason for the conviction was her activism in the protection of civil rights and criticising the land reform.

The main work done by the organisation were the fight against unlawful judgements and, in general, against the corrupt judicial system and the actions of the law enforcement authorities. When last year the public was agitated by the land reform, thanks to which foreigners could acquire land equally with citizens of the country, the society sharply criticised the initiative and held several press conferences. During the same period, Olesya Halabuzar was detained together with other several civil activists on suspicion of circulating appeals to discuss the “land issue” with the citizens in the open space.

Due to the fact that President Nursultan Nazarbayev retreated and announced a moratorium on the introduction of amendments to the Land Code, this issue temporarily ceased to be relevant, and the organisation returned to issues in the judicial system.

One of her initiatives - the creation of a “black list” of judges on the Internet - met with resistance from the judiciary. The site, containing the names of unscrupulous judicial workers, was blocked, and then the Supreme Court threatened the activists with responsibility for “disseminating information that is not true.”

On 2 March 2017, the organisation's office was searched by the complaint of an unknown citizen, who said that the organisation was engaged in extremist activities which resulted in criminal proceedings under the charges of “establishment, management and participation in the activities of illegal public and other associations.” Investigative actions were carried out by the Department for Combating Extremism of the Ministry of Interior. During the search, computer equipment, communication equipment and documentation were seized.

On 16 April, the police summoned Olesya Halabuzar to be interrogated on a new charge - incitement of national hatred: allegedly during a search in the office a leaflet with anti-Chinese content was found and the corresponding file was found on a seized computer.

As a rule, such an article of the Criminal Code is actively applied against critical bloggers and public figures participating in protest actions. The cases on charges of inciting hatred are almost always guaranteed to end with prison terms.

Olesya Halabuzar made a statement earlier saying she refuses to continue to participate in public activities and wants to devote herself to the family (she has three underage children) has become quite logical.

Denial of public activity and admission of guilt obviously played a role in the fact that today's trial of Olesya Halabuzar took only 40 minutes and ended with sentencing - two years of restriction of freedom.

The public prosecutor Didar Kobaev presented the version of the investigator: “There are signs of inciting ethnic hatred and hatred in the text of the leaflet. The text provides information on the negative consequences of amending the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Thus, Halabuzar committed deliberate actions aimed at inciting ethnic hatred, by producing and distributing media.”

Her lawyer appointed by the state asked for time to get acquainted with the case of his client and suggested applying a minimum punishment to her.

Olesya Halabuzar herself only silently acknowledged her guilt, not becoming involved in the debate and uttering the last word.

Judge Kaisanova found Halabuzar guilty. All seized evidence - communications means and computers - are subject to confiscation to the state revenue. The leaflet is to be burned.

Currently, about a dozen of public and religious figures are in prison in Kazakhstan on charges of inciting national, religious or social discord. Another three, after spending considerable time in the detention facility after pleading guilty were convicted conditionally.

Fergana News Agency