Members of the European Parliament have written to Interpol on the case of Kazakh dissident Anatoliy Pogorelov.
Brussels, 23 March, 2017
Dear Mr Secretary General of Interpol Stock,
Dear Ms Chairperson of the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files Vajić,
As Members of the European Parliament, we would like to draw your attention to the fact of misuse of international arrest warrants, issued by Kazakhstan with regard to political prosecution of a group of persons who have friendly, family or business relationships with Mr Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstani opposition politician and businessman. For the past few years, Kazakhstan has sought the extradition of Ablyazov's associates and relatives in order to obtain testimonies about his opposition activities.
The decision of France’s State Council (Conseil d'Etat) of 9 December, 2016, banning the extradition of Mr Ablyazov to Russia, gives further credit to the political nature of the case; the court also recognised the unlawful pressure, exerted by Kazakhstan on Russian and Ukrainian authorities with regard to the extradition request.
In the past few years, several EU Member States adopted more than ten decisions, denying the extradition of Ablyazov’s colleagues to Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia (e.g. Austria, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Lithuania). In addition, international protection has been granted to most of the persons who were linked to Mr Ablyazov’s activities; thus, proving the politically motivated context behind the case. The protection has been granted to: Mr Muratbek Ketebayev, Mr Alexander Pavlov, Mr Syrym Shalabayev, Ms Alma Shalabayeva and Alua Ablyazova, Mr Artur Trofimov, Ms Tatiana Paraskevich, Mr Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov, Mr Roman Solodchenko, Mr Igor Kononko and others.
The aforementioned persons were able to move to safer countries and, with regard to some of them, the Interpol Red Notice has already been cancelled. However, there are persons that were not able to go to a safe place and, like in the case of Mr. Anatoly Pogorelov, they reside in the United Arab Emirates, where, according to human rights organisations, disdain for the rule of law as well as incidents of enforced disappearances are commonplace,. In addition, the United Arab Emirates are not a State party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, nor to its 1967 Protocol (updating the 1951 Convention).
We hereby welcome the recent achievement, reported by Ms. Vajic on 2016 General Assembly and the openness of INTERPOL to fruitful cooperation with the civil society and international organisations, especially with regard to elimination of the use of Red Notice for the prosecution of political refugees by nondemocratic regimes. But the challenge still remains to find methods of eliminating the misuse of the Red Notice by nondemocratic regimes towards those who are not able to go to safe countries but are prosecuted via Red Notice in political purposes.
Therefore, we would like to draw your attention to the case of Mr Anatoliy Pogorelov, former top manager of the Kazakhstani BTA Bank. Mr Anatoliy Pogorelov’s name has been placed on the Red Notice list on the request of Kazakhstan. There are reasons to believe that the Kazakhstani authorities abused the Interpol mechanism in order to prosecute associates and persons linked to Mr Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstani opposition politician and former Chairman of the Board of BTA Bank. His case represents a worrying trend which demonstrates how authoritarian regimes misuse and politicise Interpol system, thus violating Article 3 of the Interpol Constitution.
Mr Anatoliy Pogorelov is a Kazakh citizen and former Chairman of the Credit Committee of BTA Bank, who is facing criminal charges with regard to the “BTA Bank case”, initiated against Mr Ablyazov and his colleagues in 2009. Kazakhstan’s investigative bodies accused Mr Pogorelov of ‘complicity in the embezzlement of another’s property’ as ‘part of a criminal group’. Along with him, another 21 employees of BTA Bank were sentenced in 2012, having been convicted on similar charges.
By a means of kidnapping, threats, arrests and detentions, Kazakhstan prosecutes Mr Pogorelov, former top managers, employees of BTA Bank and family members of Mr Ablyazov in order to obtain testimonies and evidence against Mr Ablyazov. Fabricated accusations of fraud or embezzlement of billions of dollars have often been employed during trials and investigations in order to gain incriminating testimonies against Mr Ablyazov. As a result of two trials in Kazakhstan, more than 30 employees of BTA Bank were convicted to 5 to 8 years’ imprisonment between 2009 and 2012. Charges were presented on the basis of ‘self-incriminating testimonies’ of more than 40 former employees, who were forced to plead guilty.
The Emirates authorities have seized Mr Pogorelov’s passport as he has been included in the Red Notice list on Kazakhstan’s request. We are afraid that by cooperating with the United Arab Emirates, the Kazakhstani authorities could use the Red Notice mechanism in order to kidnap Mr Pogorelov to Kazakhstan or bring about his extradition with a view of coercing him to give incriminating testimony against Mr Ablyazov. It is not unusual for Kazakhstani secret services to kidnap political opponents and critics of Nazarbayev’s regime, as shown in the case of Mr Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov, one of former top managers of BTA Bank. On 21 January 2017, Mr Zharimbetov was arrested in Istanbul as his name was included in the Red Notice list on the basis of trumped-up charges, presented by Kazakhstani authorities within the framework of the “BTA Bank case”. Shortly after, Mr. Zharimbetov was kidnapped from Turkey by Kazakhstani security services despite the fact that Great Britain had granted him refugee status. In fact, in cooperation with Kazakhstan, Turkey has violated the principle of non-refoulement of a refugee to the country of origin. Also, Mr Zharimbetov was forced to give a ‘self-incriminating testimony’ against himself and persons, critical of the Kazakhstani regime; such as the independent journalist Mr Zhanbolat Mamay. Mr Mamay is accused of having ‘laundered funds, stolen from BTA Bank’ via his opposition newspaper ‘Tribuna’. After he refused to confess to the crime, he was beaten in a Kazakhstani detention centre.
Criminal prosecutions along with gross violations of freedom of speech and restrictions on independent media have also been reported in regard to Ablyazov’s opposition activities. In 2012, a Kazakhstani court banned the opposition party ‘Alga!’ and 34 non-state media outlets, because, they were allegedly ‘affiliated with Ablyazov’. Such unlawful measures are aimed at silencing opposition voices in Kazakhstan as well as limiting Mr Ablyazov’s political initiative on the EU territory.
In the light of all these facts and the courts’ decisions issued by the EU member states; I hereby call on the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files and Secretary General of INTERPOL to consider the political nature of the prosecution of a group of persons who have friendly, family or business relationships with Mr Mukhtar Ablyazov, and have been accused within the framework of the “BTA Bank case”.
Also, we would like to raise our concern and ask you whether the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files and Secretary General of INTERPOL are aware of such illegal practices of political prosecution from the Kazakhstani side and what kind of mechanisms Interpol intends to activate in order to prevent the inclusion of the names of Mr Ablyazov’s colleagues in the Red Notice list, especially in the case when they cannot count on the international protection (e.g. as in the case of Mr Pogorelov in the Emirates).
Members of the European Parliament,
Julie Ward Tunne Kelam
Marju Lauristin Tomáš Zdechovsky