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08ASTANA2233 2008-11-10 11:30:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana
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1. The "Almaty Notes" series from U.S. Office Almaty focuses on
developments in civil society, the media, and the opposition in
Kazakhstan's "southern capital."


2. According to an October 28 report of the International Human
Rights Bureau NGO, two law enforcement officials recently dropped
into a reception in honor of ethnic Uighur poet Mirzakhmet Merimov
in the village of Chundja, in the Uighur rayon (district) of Almaty
oblast. The officials allegedly began reviewing Uighur literature
that was on sale in the lobby of the venue where the event was
taking place. Attendees complained that there were no legal grounds
for this "inspection." While the incident ended peacefully, the
actions of the officials "hurt the feelings of those present,"
claimed ethnic Uighur academician Alimzhan Tilivaldi. He also
detailed to the International Human Rights Bureau cases where the
government is allegedly limiting the rights of ethnic Uighurs.
Tilivaldi said that in 14 ethnic Uighur schools in Uighur rayon,
school records are maintained in Kazakh, and that the rayon
education department gave an order to remove Uighur signs from
school facades. According to Tilivaldi, last year the issue of
renaming the rayon was raised, but the ethnic Uighur population came
out strongly against this move. He believes that local authorities
are making serious mistakes that could incite inter-ethnic conflict.


3. Opposition website reported on October 30 that
approximately 9000 students from 10 universities in Almaty signed a
letter to President Nazarbayev appealing for increased scholarships,
more spaces in university dormitories, free education at state
universities, and stable tuition at private ones. The letter claims
that there have been cases when students have been forced to vote
for Nazarbayev's Nur Otan party.


4. At a press conference in Almaty on October 28, Serik Sarsenov
and Nataliya Gutarova, two attorneys representing a group of 15
ethnic Chechen youths, accused the National Security Committee (KNB)
of subjecting their clients to "torture" to force them to confess to
a serious crime. According to the lawyers, on September 1, Almaty
KNB officers detained the 15 youths on suspicion of
"hooliganism." The KNB was searching for two individuals who
attacked a bank employee and her husband near their summer house in
Karasay rayon of Almaty oblast. The bank employee, who was
four-months pregnant, and her husband were severely beaten and
stabbed by two individuals. She identified one of the 15 detained
Chechen youths as one of the attackers. The lawyers maintain that
the KNB subjected all 15 to "torture" during questioning. As a
result of the interrogations, five were placed under arrest, and the
remaining 10 were set free. Several of those released were
hospitalized due to their injuries. Complaints about the incident
have been addressed to the Ombudsman, Procurator General's Office,
and the KNB. The Ombudsman has not responded yet. The Procurator
General's Office and the KNB responded by maintaining that the
allegations of "torture" have not been confirmed.

5. International Human Rights Bureau head Yevgeniy Zhovtis, who
participated in the press conference, said that this case highlights
general problems with the KNB. He argued that the KNB does not have
appropriate procedures in place for detaining suspects and holding
them in detention.


6. The NGO Adil Soz reported that on October 23, the Almaty
Economic Court began reviewing a libel case against the opposition
newspaper "Taszhargan" and its owner which was filed by the Almaty
oblast police. The lawsuit claims that articles published by

ASTANA 00002233 002.2 OF 002

"Taszhargan" in April -- "Police Complain about Generals" and
"Motley Personnel Saluted" -- were libelous. The articles were
based on a letter from a group of police officers complaining about
abuse of authority by several senior police officials.