– We are concerned at what we consider to be a major step backwards for political pluralism in Kazakhstan, said Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Bjørn Engesland. – Authorities in Kazakhstan should seek to improve civil and political rights in the country, not stifle valid opposition. The verdict against Kozlov appears politically motivated and injust.
Kozlov has stood trial in the western city of Aktau since August of this year, accused of “inciting social discord,” “calling for the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order,” and “creating and leading an organized group with the aim of committing one or more crimes.” Two other defendants, Serik Sarpagali and Akzhanat Aminov, were given five- and four-year suspended sentences, respectively. The court also ordered the confiscation of Kozlov’s property.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was among international observers following the trial. While open to outside monitors, the backdrop of the trial was deeply politicized. The government of Kazakhstan has sought to place the blame for the tragedy in Zhanaozen in December 2011 on the country’s marginalized opposition rather than on those who ordered and fired the shots that killed 16 protesting oil-workers.
Article 164 of Kazakhstan’s criminal code includes an excessively vague definition of the term “inciting social discord” which allows for politically biased interpretations by the prosecution and courts in cases such as that of Vladimir Kozlov.