The Rakhat Aliyev files: down among the dead men / I

Two most dangerous murderers for the moment no longer haunt the Viennese public, since a court ruling, or rather overruling, reversed a suspicious decision by the judge presiding the case setting them free. They are now behind bars where they belong once more. Whereas one of them, namely Vadim Koshlyak, is believed to have been little more than a henchman who carried out orders coming from his employer Rakhat Aliyev, the dead culprit who hang himself in his prison cell shortly before he was supposed to go on trial, the other one, Alnur Mussayev who technically speaking was Aliyev’s superior in so far that he was the head of the National Security Council, the Kazakh equivalent of the American CIA, is now to be considered at least as dangerous, or perhaps even more dangerous, than his dead deputy. The team responsible for the murder of two banking executives, cruelly tortured to death near Almaty back in early 2007, appears to have been bigger than the three (one dead, two alive) on trial in Vienna. Will the entire picture, including foreign involvement, ever become clear, and does Austria’s justice system have the competence to make that happen? Burning question – and as the trial proceedings get on it seems to get hotter and hotter by the week.

BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, WRITER, NEWS ANALYST

The Rakhat Aliyev files: down among the dead men / IDark clouds are gathering over the head of Alnur Mussayev, former head of Kazakhstan’s state intelligence agency and now on trial in Austria for his part in the kidnapping and murder of two bank executives in Almaty back in 2007. But latest information revealed by news media in Austria and abroad reveal that there is a lot more to Mussayev than meets the eye in the courtroom. Since early June, he and his co-defendant Vadim Koshkyak, the now defunct main culprit Rakhat Aliyev’s right hand where it would come to dirty jobs, arebehind bars again after the presiding judge caused an uproar and widespread indignation after having overstepped his line by letting the couple go free. This blunder has been corrected now, as reported by Krone, one of Austria’s daily papers which keeps a close eye on proceedings and developments in the case [http://www.krone.at/Oesterreich/Angeklagte_im_Aliyev-Prozess_wieder_in_U-Haft-Paukenschlag-Story-456833].

“Based on the decision by the state court, the arrest warrant was carried out on Monday, June 8, at .30 in the morning. Neither Koshlyak nor Mussayev put up any resistance,” the article reads. “In late April, both defendants were released from detention pending investigation, after the judge had claimed that detention was no longer required. In his explanation, he declared among other reasons that the charges were ‘almost exclusively’ based on information from Kazakh authorities. It was also assumed that an important reason for the decision had been the findings of a court medic, who had observed that the bodies of both murdered bankers, Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov, had been conserved in such as manner as though the perpetrators wanted them to be found and identified. Also changes in declarations by witnesses have been causes of susprise during court proceedings. The prosecution reacted with exhaustive objections against the release decision. These have been successful.“

The judge’s attempt to undermine the course of justice has caused outrage far beyond Austria’s national frontiers, including the United Kingdom. On the eve of the reversal of the judge’s controversial decision, the Daily Mail in an exhaustive report written on June 2 but only published on Monday 8, just hours after the renewed detention of the two murder defendants [http://dailymailnews.com/2015/06/03/alnur-vadim-release-questioning-austrian-judicial-system/] slammed the judge’s misbehaviour in words that can hardly be misinterpreted. “This judgment is shocking for legal circles of Austria and raising questions about judicial system of the country,” the article read. “Alnur Mussayev is a former head of the Kazakh intelligence service while Vadim Koshlyak is a former presidential bodyguard and both are accused of aiding late Rakhat Aliyev in the abduction and murder of two bankers of the Kazakh Nurbank in 2007. The trial began on April 14 and had been dubbed among the most complicated in the history of Austrian justice. It involved more than 60 witnesses. This decision of the court was unexpected and is under question by judicial circles of Vienna that how court released accused of 2 murders by giving them doubt of slight differences of statements of witnesses those were 60 in number. The Prosecutor Office has already protested this decision to the higher authority and the Regional Court for Criminal Matters in Vienna has begun the consideration of the appeal. Local journalists were equally surprised with this decision because the defendants are connected to the infamous case of Rakhat Aliyev, meaning they could be dangerous for society. In this case, the surprising humanism of Judge Boehm looks suspicious. One needs to be an utter optimist and confirmed before releasing accused allegedly involved in numerous murders instead of giving benefit of doubt for differences in some of statements of 60 witnesses.”

Given the seriousness of Böhm’s interventions, one would wonder whether or not he should be replaced or even suspended. For the moment, there seems to be no sigh of that. “The explanation that accompanied the judge’s decision is equally surprising. It was based on small procedural inconsistencies that did not change the essence of the case, but perfectly embodied the spirit of casuistry,” the article reads further down. “It is one thing when the essence of the case is sacrificed to verbiage, when getting into particularities and minor nuances and details puts truth and justice aside. But it is a completely different when the judge thus influences the jury, willingly or not. It is a very sensitive sphere and the decision on such resonant cases could be changed with a tiniest shift of balance. And if the judge suddenly shows condescension to the defendants, he puts in doubt his status of an impartial arbitrator. It is then no coincidence that Austrian media, usually very reserved about their evaluation of court cases, published a series of critical articles about the works of justice in the country. “Österreich”, one of Austria’s largest newspapers, bitingly spoke up about the entire justice system basing on this high-profile case. Before Judge Böhm, 16 judiciaries in Austria, including the Constitutional Court of Austria, unanimously agreed that Mussayev and Koshlyak were lawfully under arrest. Murder charges (for murders of two Kazakhstani bankers) against them had been agreed upon by all Austrian institutions concerned, including the Ministry of Justice. Now, suddenly the entire judicial system is under question.”

And worse could be on the way if the proceedings concerning and related to the case continue in their current manner. “Aren’t there too many scandals around this case? First, the main defendant, Rakhat Aliyev committed suicide in Josefstadt prison, and then this judicial confusion occurs,” the article continues. “This criminal case is shaking the ground beneath the Austrian judicial system. Could it be that Judge Böhm got scared that Koshlyak and Mussayev too will choose to leave this world under the burden of conscience? It is not the first time that Judge Andreas Böhm was noticed to be not entirely objective towards the defendants. In particular, he did not let the witnesses from the claimant’s side speak. In the course of the court session on 28 April when Aidar Khassenov’s widow, Sholpan, tried to talk about Koshlyak and his involvement in the events that first led to the disappearance of the two bankers (her husband being one of them) and their subsequent deaths, the Judge said that he had little interest in these details. During the examination of the driver Sapozhnikov, Judge Böhm noted that had he been told to drive masked men around, he would have certainly asked what was going on. The Judge was probably forgetting that the defendants represented force structures — men on job and could requisite any means of transportation no questions asked. When the witnesses couldn’t recall some details, even though it’s been more than 8 years since the events in question, the Judge began to pressure them psychologically, implying criminal liability for false testimony.”

The most dangerous aspect of the judge’s behaviour is the possibility that he seeks justifications to eventually acquit the defendants by accepting their claim that they have been the victims of „political repression“ back home. Such arguments could find willing ears on the levels of institutions like the CIA and NATO, which seek ammunition to use in their ongoing disinformation campaigns against the Russian Federation and countries maintiaining close relations with it – including Kazakhstan – using most of the mass media establishment and a long list of so-called non-government organisations. With the civil war in Ukraine losing steam and slowly but steadily moving towards a stalemate, new battlegrounds are being looked for to invent geopolitical conflicts. The danger is a serious provocation for Kazakhstan, which has neither internal or external political problems on the ground.

“At some point Judge Böhm seemingly tried to move the case to the political plane and called in Rysbek Sarsenbayev, the brother of Kazakhstani political figure Altynbek Sarsenbayev, who was killed in February 2006, for testimony,” in the Daily Mail’s words. “It should be noted that the ex-General Mussayev and his subordinate Koshlyak were trying to prove that they were being persecuted for political reasons. Sarsenbayev’s case, which was not directly related to the case in consideration, could influence the opinions of the juries. Despite the protest from the Viennese prosecutor’s office, Judge Böhm decided to examine Sarsenbayev. Surprisingly, the witness said that Mussayev and Aliyev were involved in the contract killing of his brother. He also supposed that Mussayev and Koshlyak were complicit in the bankers’ murder. He thus supported the prosecutors’ point and perhaps Judge Boehm, who was so insistent on this examination, suddenly lost interest in Sarsenbayev case. He stopped him from talking and said: This is an unrelated case.”

How “unrelated” remains to be seen. It could well be that in particular Mussayev has still reasons to think that he could be instrumental in western attempts to destabilise Kazakhstan. Going underground, away from public attention, would be convenient for all directly or directly involved in the case and the “unrelated” cases connected with it. Unfortunately for Mussayev, publc attention keeps biting him and his allies. With new facts and details popping up almost by the week, it now appears that Mussayev has not just been Aliyev’s henchman (technically speaking he used to be his superior) but an individual at least as dangerous and probably more dangerous than his defunct comrade-in-crime in his own right. The more “unrelated” cases and aspects resound in the courtroom despite the judge’s continuing attempts to sabotage their appearance, the more obvious it becomes that there is still a lot behind the case left to be revealed.

“This infamous high-profile case seems to be tangled up in lies,” the Daily Mail writes in conclusion. “The defendants, trying to escape responsibility, rely on the distrust European countries seem to have towards the countries located east of Vienna. The status of a freedom fighter on one hand and a thick wallet, that allows for total legal protection, on the other, give them a chance to live good lives. Cases like that have been seen to drag on for years. Mussayev, for example, actively stirred up a rumour in the media that he was a political refugee. Several times he blamed Kazakhstan for keeping his close relatives hostage. His words have apparently never been checked. It was discovered that his first wife and daughters don’t experience any problems. Mussayev’s eldest daughter, Almira is married to a Kazakhstani diplomat in the Czech Republic. His younger daughter is married to a Russian citizen. All of them travel freely across countries and no one in Kazakhstan is impeding them. The second wife, with whom Mussayev is in a common law marriage, also visited Austria several times with their son. Meanwhile, his personal characteristics make him look somewhat like a dictator. He forced his girlfriend to renounce Christianity and convert to Islam, changing not only her religion but her name too. However, this is everyone’s personal choice. What’s worse is that there is information about Mussayev killing one of his mistresses. This story would make a good script for a thriller. When one of Mussayev’s girlfriends gave birth to a boy, he wanted to take the child from her. The mother refused and the General planted drugs on her provoking her arrest. After serving her time in jail, the woman tried to get her son back, but soon enough she mysteriously died. However, according to Judge Boehm, this has nothing to do with this case. The existing materials available today to the Austrian judicial system are enough to create a profile of Mussayev. It is then most important for the system to stay truly objective and impartial.” (to be continued)

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