April 3, 2017
The two lawyers for a Jehovah’s Witness now on trial in Astana are themselves under criminal investigation. The KNB secret police investigator accuses them of “revealing information from a pre-trial investigation” by appealing to President Nazarbayev for the case against their client to be halted.
Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB) secret police has opened a criminal case against two lawyers defending a Jehovah’s Witness on trial for exercising freedom of religion and belief. Vitaly Kuznetsov and Natalya Kononenko are facing criminal investigation seeking to punish them for appealing to Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the charges against their client to be dropped. Charges were brought against the lawyers even before the trial they were working on began in the capital Astana.
The KNB secret police accuses Kuznetsov and Kononenko of “revealing information from a pre-trial investigation” under Criminal Code Article 423. Kuznetsov described the accusation to Forum 18 as “absurd”. An Astana-based legal specialist told Forum 18 the accusation was “bizarre” (see below).
Astana Prosecutor’s Office handed the case to Asilzhan Gabdykaparov of the General Prosecutor’s Office, it told Forum 18 on 3 April. His telephone went unanswered the same day.
KNB Major Medet Duskaziyev – who initiated the criminal cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses Teymur Akhmedov and Asaf Guliyev, as well as the two lawyers Kuznetsov and Kononenko – refused to answer any of Forum 18’s questions on 30 March.