The editor of the independent weekly newspaper "Vzglyad" was granted a pardon and released after nearly two months in a pre-trial detention centre in Almaty.
(Adil Soz/IFEX) – Igor Vinyavsky, editor-in-chief of the independent weekly “Vzglyad” (Viewpoint) in Kazakhstan, was released from a pretrial detention center in Almaty on March 15, 2012.
Vinyavsky was detained by the Kazakh security service on January 23, 2012, under a criminal case of “incitement to social hatred,” which is being investigated in the Mangistau region, after clashes occurred there on 16 December 2011. He was indicted on criminal charges of “making public calls through mass media to violently overthrow Kazakhstan’s constitutional regime.” The punishment for such charges is a large fine or imprisonment of up to seven years. Yet Vinyavsky was indicted on charges related to leaflets seized nearly two years ago, in April 2010, from citizens whose connection with Vinyavsky was not established.
Twenty-nine IFEX members, including Adil Soz, the International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech (Kazakhstan), sent a letter to the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Kazakhstan on February 7, 2012, in which they called for Vinyavsky’s immediate release. IFEX members believed that Vinyavsky’s prosecution was politically motivated and that authorities were using the charges as an attempt to silence him because of his independent newspaper, and possibly in reprisal for reporting on violent clashes between sacked oil workers and police that took place in December 2011 in the town of Zhanaozen.
Vinyavsky’s release came the same day that the European Parliament adopted a resolution criticising the Kazakh authorities for detaining him and other activists and reiterated that “unrestricted access to information and communication and uncensored access to the internet (digital freedoms) are universal rights and are indispensable for human rights such as free expression and access to information, as well as for ensuring transparency and accountability in public life”.
Earlier, Kazak authorities also granted an amnesty to Evgeny Zhovtis, the director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and an internationally acclaimed human rights defender. He spent two and a half years in jail and was released on February 17, 2012.
Vinyavsky, who was pardoned but not acquitted, says his pro-reform political views have not changed. Vinavsky’s laywer Gennady Nam says that since the pardon was granted prior to the trial, Vinyavsky will have no criminal record and can continue his professional activities.
On behalf of the journalism community of Kazakhstan, Adil Soz expresses its appreciation of the support which was provided to Igor Vinyavsky by the IFEX members. In a letter to IFEX, Adil Soz wrote: “Thanks to tireless work and to the joint efforts of the international organizations, Igor Vinyavsky was released.”
The European Parliament welcomes the release of the activists, but at the same time calls on the Kazakh authorities “to end the clampdown on the opposition and the independent media in the country and release all persons incarcerated on political grounds”, including the leader of the Alga party, Vladimir Kozlov, who remains incarcerated.
Journalist as a threat to Kazakhstan’s national security (CPJ Blog, 27 April 2012)