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22 марта 2024
Paolo Sorbello, photo by Daniyar Mussirov.

The Week in Kazakhstan: Past Conditional

Bloody January trials continue, a former banker commits suicide

The Week in Kazakhstan: Past Conditional

Samat Abish, the nephew of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was sentenced to an eight-year conditional sentence on March 19. The Astana court found Abish, a former deputy head of the National Security Committee, guilty of abuse of power during Qandy Qantar (Kazakh for ‘Bloody January’, the violent repression of urban protests in 2022). The court considered his “sincere repentance” and admission of guilt as mitigating factors. The trial was held behind closed doors, similarly to the one that resulted in an 18-year sentence for Abish’s former boss, Karim Massimov.

A court in the southern city of Taldykorgan sentenced on March 18 three police officers to prison terms of four to six years for having exerted violence against detainees during Qandy Qantar. The following day, a court in Almaty sentenced three police officers for torture of detainees in January 2022. Each officer was sentenced to three years in prison. Torture and shootings of unarmed protesters were among the main violations surrounding the violent repression of the 2022 protests, during which 238 people were killed.

The General Prosecutor’s Office said on March 20 that they had summoned former minister of internal affairs Yerlan Turgumbayev for questioning. The interrogation focused on mishandling of detainees and torture by law enforcement officials during Qandy Qantar. The prosecutor did not clarify Turgumbayev’s position, whether he is being considered as a witness or as a suspect.

A court in Almaty prolonged on March 20 a pre-trial detention against Karakalpak activist Akylbek Muratov until February 2025. Muratov was detained in mid-February in connection to his human rights advocacy, as he called for an independent investigation on the repression of popular protests in Karakalpakstan, a north-western region of Uzbekistan. In February, Muratov was granted the status of asylum seeker in Kazakhstan, which will prevent his extradition to Uzbekistan for the next months.

An Almaty court ordered the return of 960 hectares of land to the Central Bank on March 19 in connection with a trial against former banker Orifjan Shadiev. He was the sole shareholder of the now-liquidated banks Capital Bank and AsiaCredit Bank. The court said the purchase and sale agreements concerning the land plots were invalid. Shadiev was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison (then converted to probation) in 2023 for abuse of power and damage to the state budget.

An ambulance depot in Almaty was returned to the state through a court order on March 18. The building complex had been privatized in 2002 after a decision by then-mayor Viktor Khrapunov. The court found the transaction was conducted illegally. The decision is in line with the government’s policy of returning assets to the state budget. After falling out with former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Khrapunov and his family left Kazakhstan in 2008 and received political asylum in Switzerland in 2021.

The police in Almaty confirmed on March 16 that Bakhyt Ibragim had committed suicide two days earlier. The authorities ran tests on the body of the former banker, found lifeless at a short-term rental apartment in the city. After being arrested and extradited from Germany, Ibragim had served five years in prison for embezzlement while in charge of Qazaq Banki, a mid-sized lender that was shut down in 2018.