On Tuesday, the 24th of October, the Kyiv-Svyatoshynsky District Court of the Kyiv Region granted partially the petition of the prosecutor for temporary arrest of the citizen of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the journalist Zhanara Akhmetova. She moved to Ukraine with her minor son in March 2017 and now expects the competent authorities to grant her a status of refugee for political reasons.
Instead of 40 days of temporary arrest, requested by the prosecutor’s office, Zhanara was awarded 18 days of detention in custody. Taking into account the date of detention, the journalist will spend in the Lukyanivsky pre-trial detention center 15 days, until November 7, 2017. In protest against such a court decision, Zhanara launched a hunger strike, and the lawyers are already preparing an appeal.
Both the journalist herself and the defense see the signs of political motivation in the detention and temporary arrest of the Kazakh opposition journalist. Circumstances of the detention, as well as the events that take place during the trial (namely, deliberate delaying the process by the prosecutor for the purpose of obtaining new documents that were completely absent at the time of the request submission), raise many questions.
We provide a reference on activities of Zhanara Akhmetova in her home country and a chronology of events that occurred since her arrest.
1. Reference: person
Zhanara Akhmetova is a well-known blogger, journalist and social activist who writes on political topics in Facebook. Zhanara is a member of one of the most influential and authoritative international organizations for human rights protection, which asserts the liberty of speech all over the world – Reporters Without Borders.
In Almaty the woman worked in the Kazakh opposition newspaper Trybuna until the media was closed (the editor-in-chief was arrested). The closure has signs of political motivation.
Since the beginning of this year, three administrative cases have been opened in Kazakhstan against Zhanara Akhmetova, among which there is even one regarding road crossing in the wrong place. According to available data, three officers of the National Security Committee came to Zhanara’s home to accuse her of violating traffic rules on denunciation of the unknown citizen who allegedly recorded the video on his phone. As the journalist noted, after this incident it became obvious to her that she was under discreet surveillance. So for now there are enough reasons to believe that the persecution is caused by the criticism of authorities by the journalist. In March this year, in order to protect herself and her nine-year-old child, Zhanara Akhmetova was forced to leave her home country and ask for political shelter in Ukraine. Now the woman rents an apartment here, Zhanara’s son studies at a local school and, according to teachers, is making progress in learning the Ukrainian language and socializes well.
2. Detention (at night 21.10 – 22.10.2017)
On Saturday, October 21, 2017, having lured Akhmetova out of her apartment (deliberately leaving her home without electricity by interfering with the electrical network), at the entrance of the house where the woman lived, she was seized by two unidentified people in civilian clothes.
Without presenting any documents, two men applied violence to Zhanara and inflicted injury, trying to force her follow them, leaving her 9-year-old son at home. According to the Law (in accordance with part 1 of Article 582 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine), a person wanted by a foreign state in connection with a criminal offense should be detained on the territory of Ukraine by an authorized official. At the time of Zhanar’s bringing to Kyivo-Svyatoshinsky Police Department of the Main Administration of National Police in Kyiv region (town of Boyarka, 88 Hreshchatyk str.), the police officers had no information that Akhmetova was on the international wanted list. Information about this appeared in the police only a few hours after the actual detention of Zhanara – which testifies eloquently to the made-to-order nature of the detention.
According to the prosecutor’s materials, Zhanara Akhmetova is allegedly wanted by Kazakhstan law enforcement agencies under Article 177 Part 3, Paragraph B of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan – fraud (allegedly seizing funds of third parties in 2005-2008), for which she has already served her sentence in her home country (!). According to neither Ukrainian nor Kazakhstani legislation, a person can be punished twice for the same action.
For the record, according to Zhanara Akhmetova herself, namely bringing her to responsibility and punishment for fraud, which (according to her) she didn’t commit – forced her to engage in public activities and accusatory journalism.
In addition, the article, according to which the journalist was put on the wanted list, starting from January 1, 2015, provides for responsibility for infringement on life of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy. Since 01.01.2015, the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan in the previous edition dated of July 16, 1997, became invalid.
The prosecutor’s office in its petition insisted on the temporary arrest of Akhmetova for a period of 40 days before the receipt of the request for extradition from the competent authorities of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
4. Court sessions
Kyivo-Svyatoshinsky District Court of Kyiv region (investigating judge- Kovalchuk Liudmyla Mykolaivna) began to consider the prosecutor’s office petition (the prosecutor of the prosecutor’s office of the Kyivo-Svyatoshinsky district -Stasiuk Julia) on October 23, 2017 in the evening, but was forced to recess a meeting until October 24, 2017 due to the fact that during October 22 and 23 (days since the journalist’s detention) the prosecutor’s office did not translate the procedural documents into a language that the person knows and understands (in accordance with the requirements of Article 29 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine), which is also an infringement of Zhanara’s rights, and the meeting on October 24 was also recessed for 3 hours until translation of the documents was ready.
And only on the second day of the actual petition consideration, the prosecutor filed to the court a number of copies received from unidentified source. Among such copies there was also a copy of the alleged decision of the State Migration Service on refusal to Zhanara in a status of refugee or a person in need of additional protection, dated on October 18, 2017 (it means, 2 days before the arrest). Thus, Zhanara and her defense learned about the alleged decision of the SMS of Ukraine during the court session from a copy of dubious quality. The decision of the migration service, if its accuracy is confirmed, will be contested.
Also among the documents, the prosecutor asked the court to attach to the case, there was the request of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan on extradition of Zhanara Akhmetova, dated on August 17, 2017. The request of the Kazakhstan prosecutor’s office almost directly recognizes the fact that unauthorized search actions were conducted in Ukraine. Namely, the establishment of Zhanara’s Akhmetova address of residence, which was indicated in the request from the prosecutor’s office of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This fact shows that the opposition journalist could be under discreet surveillance.
After reviewing the materials provided by the Kazakhstani side to its Ukrainian colleagues, Zhanara Akhmetova assured the court that the documents provided by the prosecutor’s office of the Republic of Kazakhstan, contained only data with prosecutorial bias, while she received a number of court decisions in her favor that were not included into provided package of documents.
Despite the above and a number of aspects that confirm groundlessness of the prosecutor’s office petition for a temporary arrest, the court decided to accept it partially and arrest Zhanara for a period of 18 days (starting from the moment of detention).
The defense of Zhanara Akhmetova was carried out by the lawyers of the law union Aria Law Firm – the senior partner Julian Khorunzhyi, the partner of criminal practice Yevhen Hrushovets, the counsel of criminal practice Vladyslav Hryshchenko, and the lawyer of the charity foundation “Right to Defense” Dmytro Mohyla.
During the court sessions, Kazakhstan activists and journalists carried out a broadcast (stream) on the Facebook network.
One of the most comprehensive reports from the courtroom was published by Centre-1 (News, analytics and opinions from Central Asia). As well as the Ukrainian media EtCetera. Follow this link to the video broadcast to find the video of the court decision announcement, as well as a comment Zhanara Akhmetova.
5. Position of defense
Evhen Hrushovets, the lawyer in Zhanara’s Akhmetova case, the partner of criminal practice of the law union Ario Law Firm:
“In fact, the court reduced the temporary arrest requested by the prosecutor for 22 days. In these circumstances it can be considered a small victory. But we will still appeal this decision and after translation of the decision into a language understandable to our client, this week we will immediately submit an appeal complaint. First of all, we question the authenticity of the documents provided by the prosecutor’s office, because so far we have no confirmed facts regarding their receipt, which as a result affected the quality of the case consideration.”
Vladyslav Hryshchenko, the lawyer in Zhanara’s Akhmetova case, the counsel to the law union Ario Law Firm:
“Despite awarding the arrest term that is shorter than that requested by the prosecutor, we still consider this decision unfair and such that does not comply with current legislation. The defense provided convincing arguments, while the arguments of the prosecutor cannot be called legitimate and permissible. In addition, the risks that Zhanara is hiding from law enforcement agencies are insignificant: when she arrived in Kyiv, she immediately informed law enforcement and immigration authorities about her place of stay. Her minor son is now studying in the Ukrainian school, where he is studying the Ukrainian language, which indicates Zhanara’s intention to stay in Ukraine. For sure, we will appeal the court’s decision”.