Nazarbayev has been warned
while Kazhegeldin will stand trial

Vremya Novostei, 8 August 2001

Arkadiy DUBNOV

On July 18, the U.S. Congress held hearings entitled 'Silencing Central Asia: the Voice of Dissidents', and passions still run high in Washington and Astana ('Vremya Novostei', July 20, 2001). During the hearings the Congressmen's attention was focused on the situation in Kazakhstan. Two delegations - official and opposition - came from Kazakhstan to attend the hearings on Capitol Hill.

On August 3, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairperson of the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights and Co-chair of the hearings, forwarded a letter to President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. She began her letter with the expression of objection to the attempt by Kazakhstan Embassy to serve former Prime Minister and currently opposition leader Akezhan Kazhegeldin with a summons while he was attending the hearing. 'Such action showed disrespect for this hearing and for the U.S. Congress,' stressed Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. She also presumes that the refusal of Kazakhstani government 'to allow Mr. Amirzhan Kosanov, a senior officer of the Republican People’s Party, and Mr. Yermurat Bapi, editor-in-chief of SolDAT newspaper, to travel to Washington' on the official invitation of the U.S. Congress 'was but one more development reflecting the repression and lack of freedom of movement' in Kazakhstan.

Main idea of the letter written by the influential Congresswoman has become her concern about how those Kazakhstani opposition members and journalists who testified before the U.S. Congress would be treated upon their return to Kazakhstan. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen urges Nazarbayev 'to ensure' that there will be no attempts to punish them as well as to 'take specific actions that would help demonstrate that Kazakhstan is, in fact, making progress in the areas of human rights, democratic reform and press freedoms.' She also draws Mr. Nazarbayev's attention to the situation regarding two imprisoned bodyguards of former prime minister Kazhegeldin, Pyotr Afanasenko and Satzhan Ibrayev. One of them has been released recently, and Ms. Ros-Lehtinen calls on Nazarbayev to release the other as well.

It happened so that the next day, August 4, General Prosecutor's Office in Kazakhstan formally announced that the new criminal case brought against 'citizen Akezhan Magzhanovich Kazhegeldin' had been 'referred to the Supreme Court.' The time may be a mere coincidence, but this information is most likely to be regarded on the Hill as a kind of answer to the letter sent to Nazarbayev from the U.S. Congress.

The official U.S. lobbyists for Kazakhstani government admit that the Congressional hearings negatively affected the image of the Kazakhstani authorities. A member of U.S.-Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce Bill Veal sent his employers in Astana a memo in which he advises them of the opinion of Congressmen loyal to Kazakhstani government: the subpoena incident 'served to validate the negative claims being made at the hearing' and the 'political credibility of the fronds of Kazakhstan had been seriously damaged.' 'What was needed now was time to heal raw political sensitivities opened by the incident', wrote the lobbyist to Astana.

What Mr. Veal finds it sad about the situation is that, in the opinion of loyal Congressmen, they 'should wait and see how things unfold' before trying to hold a 'Congressional breakfast' for a 'senior Kazakhstani official.' The American carefully gives to understand that it's hardly advisable for Nazarbayev to come to the United States in the near future.

Vremya Novostei, 8 August 2001