Court orders release of Kazakh Union of Journalists’ Chairperson
According to the decree, Mataev has been prohibited from holding executive positions related to organisational and distributive, materially responsible functions in state and commercial organisations for a decade. The decision of the court will come into force in 15 days if the Prosecutor General's Office does not appeal.
According to Azattyk Radio (regional service of Radio Liberty), at a trial on 16 November, the court heard the representatives of Mataev and his defence team. Mataev testified through video conference (the convict is currently in the general regime prison in the village of Zarechny, Almaty region). His lawyers Madina Bakieva and Andrei Petrov asked the court to take into account that their client has reached retirement age—he turned 63 on 31 October.
As the KazTAGnews agency reports, at the beginning of the trial, the defence also asked to file a medical report of the "Aman-Saulik" foundation to use as the materials in the case. It further said Mataev had been diagnosed with hypertension degree III, his blood pressure had risen to 260 mm Hg during periods of hypertensive crises. At the same time, the report pointed out Mataev's condition was not improving, "due to constant pressure and emotional stress caused by his complete confidence in his innocence, the injustice of the sentence and being in prison, which can lead to myocardial infarction or stroke followed by disability and death."
The representative of the medical unit of the prison, to which Mataev is admitted, confirmed the findings of the "Aman-Saulik" foundation. She also explained that the convict needs medical treatment, which the prison institution is not able to provide.
Moreover, the lawyers provided letters of guarantee from the Kazakh Telegraph Agency (KazTAG) stating that Mataev, after his release, will hold the position of an editor, as well as from the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan, where Mataev is the current chairperson. In turn, the representative of the penitentiary fully confirmed the account given by lawyers of Mataev that he is characterised positively, has incentives, does not need constant monitoring by the staff of the prison and can be released on parole.
The prosecutor, who participated in the trial, opposed the release of Mataev. He backed it up by saying that the convict has "insufficient" rewards from the administration of the correctional facility, where he is serving a prison term. Also, Mataev, according to the prosecutor, has not yet been compensated for the damage—more than 200 million tenge (about $ 600,000).
The authorities had detained Mataev on 22 February 2016 and placed him under house arrest. A month later, his son Aset, who headed the KazTAG news agency, was also placed under house arrest. The investigation accused them of embezzling budget funds of a particularly large amount and evading taxes. The criminal case against the father and son totalled 150 volumes.
In October 2016, the court sentenced Mataev to six years of imprisonment with serving a sentence in a general regime prison and confiscated his property. Meanwhile, Aset was sentenced to five years in prison, and his property was also confiscated. The father-son duo did not admit their guilt during the trial. Lawyers of the Mataevs have repeatedly stated that the judges who examined the case were under pressure.
The defence team of Mataev had previously attempted to mitigate his punishment, attributing it to the poor health of their client, but the courts refused to release him from prison twice.