Kazakhstan: State TV Slurs Opposition Leader Ahead of Appeal Hearing
“Money for blood: Their weapons are dirty games and provocations, their business is unrest and social conflicts.” It sounds like a trailer for an exciting new movie, but it is actually an advert for a state TV “documentary” in Kazakhstan sullying the names of political opponents of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The program, broadcast on Khabar TV on November 15 ahead of an appeal hearing by jailed opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, consists of a 20-minute diatribe against Kozlov and alleged accomplices, including fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov. They are portrayed as greedy criminals who stoked deadly unrest in the town of Zhanaozen last December to make money.
The “documentary” -- which has echoes of the “Anatomy of a Protest” aired on Russian TV to slur Russia’s opposition -- is entitled “Amoral Alga!rhythm,” a play on words with the name of Kozlov’s unregistered political party, Alga!. The party is described as “a criminal group,” a secretive network that funneled money from Ablyazov into Kazakhstan to foment unrest.
Ablyazov, portrayed as “a criminal and a fraudster,” is a former banker who left Kazakhstan for London in 2009 after the government nationalized his BTA Bank. BTA is suing him in the UK for defrauding it of $6 billion. Ablyazov denies the charges and says they are political. He is on the run from British justice and has been debarred from contesting the fraud charges in London.
Kozlov – sentenced last month to seven and a half years for fomenting unrest in Zhanaozen that officials say left 15 dead -- is portrayed in the program as a manipulative criminal for whom “unrest and social conflicts became a business.” Images of dollar bills -- including one with Ablyazov’s face on it -- flash on the screen to drive the point home. Kozlov argued during his trial that he engaged only in legitimate political opposition.
The program condemns alleged accomplices including Alga! activist Muratbek Ketebayev and Irina Petrushova, editor of the outspoken Respublika newspaper (both live abroad), and also Dzhamilya Dzhakisheva, wife of Mukhtar Dzhakishev, a longtime friend of Ablyazov’s whose jailing in 2010 on corruption charges sparked an outcry amid suspicions of political motivations.
Ahead of Kozlov’s November 19 appeal, Human Rights Watch has urged a fair hearing for an opposition leader “whose lengthy prison sentence was a blow to freedom of expression and political pluralism in Kazakhstan.”