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On Nov. 30, a Kazakh court sentenced cousins Zhasulan Suleimenov and Kuat Zhobolayev to eight years in prison for promoting violent extremism and creating and leading a terrorist group.
ASTANA — On Nov. 30, the Astana district court sentenced cousins Zhasulan Suleimenov and Kuat Zhobolayev to eight years in prison for promoting terrorism, inciting extremist acts, as well as creating and leading a terrorist group. The defendants plead not guilty. Their families are certain that the court's conclusion was pre-determined and that the presiding judge ignored flagrant discrepancies and contradictions in the indictment.
Suleimenov and Zhobolayev, along with a group of other young Astana residents, were arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in Ingushetia, an autonomous Russian region in the Caucasus. According to the detainees, they were there to undergo medical treatment through the Koran, which is becoming more and more popular among Muslim believers. The FSB charged the Kazakhs with attempting to join the radical extremist underground.
The detainees were sent by prisoner transport from Russia back to Kazakhstan, where only the cousins were charged. Suleimenov is seriously disabled and confined to a wheelchair.
During the course of the criminal proceedings, virtually all the witnesses changed their testimony, claiming they had been tortured by the FSB. The cousins also withdrew confessions they made in the early stages of the investigation, asserting they were made under pressure.
The investigation indicated the defendants were found to have grenades and flash cards with extremist content. It appears, however, that the flash cards were modified after the arrest, and the grenades weres found in a different jacket than the one presented to the court.
Svoboda Radio cited an unnamed state attorney who said that the defendants did all they could without the assistance of their attorneys. Their defence went so far as to say that they actually proved their innocence independently, but the judge could not declare them innocent because of the gravity of the evidence in the case. The judge, however, helped them indirectly by sentencing them to the minimum term stipulated by criminal code articles.
In the end, the court’s handling of the case left a number of questions unanswered. Many consider the fight against violent extremism a holy cause, and Kazakhstan as a country governed by the rule of law, with each person equal under the law. But the rationale of "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs" is a rather weak one to justify punishing the innocent in the name of countering terrorism.