Oleksandr Pavlichenko, “For Zhanara Akhmetova, this story has ended up successfully; she has been released today”

Today, 22 November 2017, the Kyiv Shevchenkivsky District Court has released journalist Zhanara Akhmetova from custody, despite her extradition is requested by Kazakhstan. She has been released on bail guaranteed by MP Svitlana Zalischuk. Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, attended all court sessions in this case and acted as a guarantor of Mrs. Akhmetova in the court of first instance.

Today, a court hearing has been held. Judges of the court considered an appeal filed by attorneys of Zhanara Akhmetova concerning a change of the preventive measure. I remind that on 2 November 2017, the Shevchenkivsky District Court delivered a judgement on an extradition arrest for 60 days until January 1, 2018. According to it, Zhanara Akhmetova was supposed to stay in the pre-detention center of Kyiv. Lawyers have not agreed with this decision and filed the appeal, which has been considered today.

The three judges of the court of appeal have taken into account arguments of the attorneys. They were related to the fact that Zhanara Akhmetova has no reason to leave Ukraine; she does not have documents for departure; she is an asylum seeker, and this procedure usually lasts for more than one year. During this period, she cannot stay in a pre-detention center. Her dependent son is a young kid, who has just reached the age of 10 years old, and he currently stays alone. This rupture of family ties is crucial. I remind that Zhanara stayed in the pre-detention center of Kyiv for one month, since October 22. Accordingly, there is no reason to detain her there, expressing concern that she may disappear, or she will not show up to take part in investigative actions, because she is interested in conducting these investigative actions in order to be granted asylum in Ukraine among other things.

Zhanara Akhmetova was released today. Photo
Zhanara Akhmetova was released today. Photo

Today, the judges have understood the motivation of lawyers, who expressed their request for a change of preventive measure, namely detention in the pre-detention center, to a less severe one, namely either home arrest or release on bail. The judge considered that MP Svitlana Zalishchuk was in the courtroom, and she was a guarantor in the court of first instance. I will note that I also acted as a guarantor in the court of first instance.

Considering all the circumstances of the case, taking into account the personality of Zhanara Akhmetova, and above all the fact that she does not intend to leave the territory of Ukraine, where she seeks asylum, and has strong social ties here; moreover, her child resides in Kyiv, she has a definite permanent place of residence and so on… Taking all these arguments into account, the judge decided to cancel the decision of the court of first instance, and to release Zhanara Akhmetova in the courtroom and chose a bail as a preventive measure, as well as a written pledge not to leave Kyiv Oblast, obliging her to fulfill all the requirements of the investigation that will be scheduled later; to show up, if there is such a request and, accordingly, to participate in all investigative actions that will be carried out concerning her case. Actually, this was the goal of attorneys, her defenders.

Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

I will note that there was a very large support group. There was a lot of media representatives, and from the very beginning the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union was involved in this process, “monitoring” this process and actively supporting her defense; working with lawyers, advising them on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular. Moreover, today I spoke with a group of defenders, they are ready to work on a strategic litigation, but they have no such experience. I advised them about the possibility of providing assistance to lawyers in the application of Rule 39 of the European Court in the case if there is a need to suspend the extradition procedure in the case of Mrs. Akhmetova’s extradition to Kazakhstan; other situations that may be considered in the context of the preparation of the application to ECHR.

I can also draw attention to the support of MPs. I will note that I participated in the session of the Committee on Freedom of Speech of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and delivered a speech with the description of the situation. As a result of the consideration of this issue, the Committee unanimously decided to express its support for the request for a change of preventive measure, which was addressed to the Prosecutor General. Today this request was also added to the case file when considering the case in the court of appeal. So, it can be said that thanks to the personal guarantee of a people’s deputy, and the written pledge not to leave the region, now Zhanara Akhmetova have the opportunity to take care of her child, who stays here. So, she can again more actively work on the issue of obtaining asylum, because the lawyers work, and she does not need to be kept in custody, as was already said. A restored measure of justice, which should establish the proportionality of the preventive measure, which, I believe, was violated, while selecting such a preventive measure by the court of first instance.

Interview by Ivan Shelehov (UHHRU)

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