Kazakhstan: U.S. lawyer to defend jailed businessman

ASTANA (TCA) — A prominent U.S.-based human rights lawyer has announced that his firm will represent Iskander Erimbetov, a Kazakh businessman who the attorney said has been tortured in custody, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

In a January 24 statement, Jared Genser said that Perseus Strategies “undertakes to defend” Erimbetov, who he said “has been detained and tortured since being arrested in November 2017.”

“We will act in Washington and around the world to expose the injustice of both his arbitrary detention and the horrific conditions of his ongoing torture in detention,” Genser said.

Kazakhstan’s Anticorruption Service denied that Erimbetov has been tortured in custody.

Erimbetov and three associates were arrested in November and charged with money laundering and embezzlement.

Relatives claim that Erimbetov’s arrest was a politically motivated effort to put pressure on his sister Botagoz Jardemalie, a lawyer who formerly represented fugitive Kazakh tycoon Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Jardemalie has been granted political asylum in Belgium.

Ablyazov, a former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA bank who is currently living abroad, is a prominent opponent of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

He is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion. Ablyazov denies the accusations, saying they are politically motivated.

Jardemalie told RFE/RL on January 25 that she asked Genser to take on her brother’s case after she “learned that Kazakh authorities physically and psychologically are torturing my brother to break him and get false confessions from him.”

Kazakhstan’s Anticorruption Service on January 24 officially rejected claims that Erimbetov was tortured while in custody.

In his statement, Genser noted that Kazakhstan is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and said it must be held responsible “for the severe violations of international law being inflicted on [Erimbetov].”

He said the firm will urge the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries to use “Magnitsky” laws targeting alleged human rights violators to impose sanctions on “those responsible for the most severe abuses in Kazakhstan against Iskander and other political prisoners.”

Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbayev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

Sergey Kwan