Kazakhstan: Businessman Jailed Over Beating After Social Media Outcry
When an Astana businessman dealt a savage beating on a young man he deemed a love rival, he may have thought his influential connections would grant him impunity.
He was wrong.
On August 7, Astana criminal court sentenced Kayrat Zhamaliyev to 13 years in jail, ending a trial that has revealed the power of social media to hold even Kazakhstan’s movers and shakers to account. Two accomplices received prison terms of 12 and eight years.
Zhamaliyev was found guilty of assaulting Alibi Zhumagulov, whom he reportedly suspected of having an affair with his girlfriend.
Adding spice to the high-profile case is the that fact that Zhamaliyev is married and that the woman in question, Aynur Isina, was reportedly his “tokal” — the Kazakh word for a second wife. That aspect of the affair has led wags in Kazakhstan to dub the case “Tokalgate.”
Polygamy is illegal in Kazakhstan, but the practice of taking a second wife – either under Islamic law or informally — is becoming widespread, as Bloomberg has reported.
Isina, who reportedly has a child by Zhamaliyev, stood by the businessman and denied that Alibi had been subjected to any violence. Both she and his wife, Alena Zhamaliyeva, appeared in court to support him.
Zhamaliyev — a well-known figure in Astana and owner of a hotel, two restaurants and a karaoke bar in the city – was accused of inflicting a serious beating on Zhumagulov and subjecting him to a sexual assault.
During the assault in April, he also reportedly threatened to kill Zhumagulov’s father and sister and forced him to confess to murder on video with a view to blackmailing his family, earning the accused charges of extortion on top of everything else. Zhamaliyev said he was innocent.
The case might have ended up buried, but for the victim’s father.
Immediately after the assault, Nurlan Zhumagulov took to Facebook to post shocking pictures of his son with his face beaten to a pulp. The images sparked an outcry and led to the arrest of Zhamaliyev and his accomplices.
Rumors were rife of the family being pressured from on high to drop the case.
The prison term handed down to Zhamaliyev — described by his lawyer Salimzhan Musin as “incredibly harsh” — reveals the power that social media has come to wield in Kazakhstan, where ordinary citizens have few other outlets to express their frustration or stand up for their rights.