Kazakhstan Human Rights Leader Sentenced to Prison

Yesterday we ran a report on the first day of the trial against the human rights leader Yevgeny Zhovtis in Kazakhstan.  Before Day 2 could draw to a close, they had already sentenced him to four years, and had thrown him into prison to begin serving time immediately.  The freelance journalist Joanna Lillis is all over this story for Eurasia.net:

Yevgeny Zhovtis, one of Kazakhstan’s leading human rights activists, was found guilty on September 3 of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison. Prior to the reading of the verdict, Zhovtis denounced his two-day trial as a “political setup.” (…)

During a break before the presiding judge, Kulan Tolkunov, announced his decision on September 3, Zhovtis vowed that he would appeal what he expected to be a guilty verdict. He went on to express a belief that he was being punished for his professional work, and for his criticism of government policies. “It’s a demonstration of strength, a demonstration of the absence of the rule of law,” Zhovtis said, referring to the legal case against him. “It’s all decided at the political level.”

Immediatelyafter sentencing, Zhovtis was bundled out of the courtroom and into awaiting sedan without having the ability to talk with supporters, ormake any kind of statement. Supporters, including rights activists andopposition politicians, who packed the public gallery during the trial,shouted “Shame, Shame” as Zhovtis was led away to immediately beginserving his prison term. [Editor’s Note: Zhovtis is a board member ofthe Central Eurasia Project (CEP) of the Open Society Institute (OSI)in New York. EurasiaNet operates under the auspices of CEP/OSI].

Thetrial appeared to hinge on evidence — a document called an”auto-technical expert conclusion” — presented by prosecutors thatindicated that Zhovtis could have avoided hitting Moldabayev. Zhovtisand his defense team unsuccessfully sought to have the evidence tossedout, arguing that its conclusions were speculative and not based on anyhard data.