Kazakhstan: Jailed Opposition Leader Refused Parole

A jailed opposition leader in Kazakhstan whose case has drawn expressions of concern from Washington and Europe is to remain behind bars after his parole bid was rejected.

Vladimir Kozlov’s application for release from custody was rejected on December 8 at a hearing in the jail outside Almaty where he is being held, his lawyer Aiman Umarova said in postings on her Facebook page.  Umarova complained in her post of the judge’s “negative attitude” to Kozlov during the hearing.

Kozlov had exercised his legal right to file for parole after serving half of his seven-and-a-half-year jail term on charges of inciting violence in the western oil town of Zhanaozen in 2011.

He was also found guilty of seeking to use the unrest in Zhanaozen to overthrow President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the capital, Astana, some 2,600 kilometers away.

Speaking at the parole hearing, to which journalists and human rights campaigners were not admitted, Kozlov denied committing any crimes.

He argued, as he always has, that his only link to the Zhanaozen violence — which spiraled out of an oil-sector strike that the government acknowledged mishandling — was his legitimate political activity.

“I have not committed any crimes,” he said in a speech posted by his lawyer on Facebook. “I headed a political party, and when the oil workers of Zhanaozen came and asked for support in their economic and social dispute with employers, we decided to offer them informational, legal and consultative support.”

It was those links with the striking oil workers that led to the jailing of Kozlov, who was not in Zhanaozen when the dispute later turned violent and 15 civilians died in clashes with armed security forces.

“I did not call for unrest, did not take part in any, and warned against any use of violence, but my imprisonment continues,” Kozlov told his parole hearing.

Unconvinced by these arguments, the judge rejected Kozlov’s application for early release, leaving his wife, Aliya Turusbekova, commenting on Facebook that she was “very sad at all this absurdity” following a parole hearing that she described as a “clown show and not a court.”

She has not been able to visit her husband since summer, when he was placed on a stricter detention regime for alleged violations of prison rules.

Kozlov’s case has sparked resolutions in the European Parliament and expressions of concern from Washington, from a United Nations rapporteur and from international human rights groups.

Kazakhstan: Jailed Opposition Leader Refused Parole

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