Kazakhstan’s Political Prisoner #1

zhovtis091109.jpgBob has written a few posts here and there about the Kazakhstani human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis, who was recently imprisoned following a rapid show trial.  The ordeal is catching the attention of some serious regional players, many of whom see it as the definitive proof that the country is not prepared to take on the chairmanship of the OSCE next year (if this privilege is somehow revoked, it would represent one giant leap backward for the country’s reputation).

Today’s Economist reports, “Starting this spring, an unprecedented wave of arrests of governmentand state-company officials and bankers on various charges–mostlycorruption or embezzlement–has caused alarm. A number of people,fearing they may be next, have left the country. Some arrests seemunconnected with actual wrongdoing and have been widely attributed,including by Mr Zhovtis, to behind-the-scenes struggles among the elite.

Thereare two pieces of positive news, however.  A support committee has beenformed in Almaty, and they have already held marches and made effortsto have Zhovtis declared a political prisoner.  There are reports from some of his supporters that Zhovtis plans to continue his human rights advocacy work from the prison colony.

Secondly, it appears that the state may have begun backpeddling.  Askar Shakirov, a government ombudsman, has reportedly asked the Supreme Court to treat Zhovtis’s appeal to the conviction lawfully and with fairness.

Let’s just hope the presidency has realized its mistake and releases Zhovtis as soon as possible.