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Cablegate: Kazakhstan: Zhovtis Understandably Pessimistic About Reform

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E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM OSCE KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: ZHOVTIS UNDERSTANDABLY PESSIMISTIC ABOUT REFORM

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this," he continued. Zhovtis asserted that he fully understands the
motivations behind "the political war" Mukhtar Ablyazov launched
against President Nazarbayev's powerful son-in-law Timur Kulibayev.
"Maybe this is the way to get results," he said. (NOTE: Ablyazov,
the ousted former chairman of Bank Turam Alem (BTA) in self-imposed
exile in London, has publicly accused Kulibayev of receiving major
kick-backs from the Chinese for oil contracts signed in 2003-2005
(ref B). END NOTE.)

"RESPECT YOUR PRINCIPLES"

5. (SBU) Zhovtis offered the following advice to the international
community. "Lose your illusions," he said. "This system will not be
reformed quickly." Secondly, he urged Western countries to "respect
yourself and your principles" and to criticize Kazakhstan openly when
such criticism is deserved. He underlined that he was not speaking
about his case specifically, but about the Internet law, the privacy
law, and the trial against former director of Kazatomprom Mukhtar
Dzhakishev (ref C). He asserted that a new generation of
Kazakhstanis was growing up in a "culture of legal nihilism. What
you (the diplomatic community) do and say behind closed doors
certainly plays a role," he asserted, "but regular people only know
what they see in the media."

LIFE IN THE COLONY

6. (SBU) On his living conditions, Zhovtis said the penal colony is a
mix "between Soviet army barracks and a young pioneer camp." He said
he sleeps in a large dormitory with 69 other convicts. Everyone must
get up at 6 am, go to bed at 9:30 pm, and have their meals at
strictly appointed times. Most convicts perform manual jobs outside
the penal colony, except for Zhovtis and Kuchukov, who have been
given jobs as warehouse keepers on the compound. There are no
computers on the compound, even in the administrative offices, but
the administration allows visitors to bring newspapers for the
convicts. (NOTE: The guards also let PolOff bring a large stack of
U.S. magazines for Zhovtis, although they carefully flipped through
each one. END NOTE.) According to Zhovtis, opposition newspapers
"Respublika," "Svoboda Slova," and independent newspaper "Vzglyad"
are readily available and widely read. Zhovtis' wife, who was in
Ust-Kamenogorsk at the same time as PolOff, and his lawyer Vitaliy
Voronov are able to visit him fairly frequently. Zhovtis seems to be
well-regarded by the guards and penal colony administration.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Zhovtis seemed to be in generally good spirits,
although he is, understandably, deeply disillusioned with
Kazakhstan's legal system. The fact that he would consider leaving
Kazakhstan for good, albeit only if he is forced to apply for a
pardon, is jarring news, and it would be a serious blow to
Kazakhstan's civil society development. Nevertheless, Zhovtis is
still hopeful that the Supreme Court will likely issue a positive
decision in his case. His lawyer filed a motion for review on
January 27, and the Supreme Court was supposed to decide by February
27 whether to accept the case for review. That review period was
extended indefinitely, however, when the court requested further
documentation from the lower courts. If the Supreme Court does
accept the case, it must issue a verdict within a month. In the
meantime, the Kazakhstani authorities seem eager to showcase their
transparency and are open to letting the international community
visit Zhovtis. Though the approval process for this visit was
sluggish (it took six weeks), that could change as other diplomatic
missions apply for permission to visit. We have requested permission
for two Helsinki Commission staffers to visit Zhovtis when they are
in Kazakhstan March 2-10. European missions in Astana are also
considering sending a representative within the next month. END
COMMENT.

HOAGLAND

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