ENGRUS

Kazakhstan: Jailed Businessman’s Wife Makes Torture Claims

The wife of a businessman arrested in Kazakhstan on suspicion of heading a criminal racketeering gang is crying foul with allegations that security service agents are torturing her spouse.

But Murathan Tokmadi, who runs a major glass-making factory called KazStroySteklo, is attracting little attention from local media, suggesting little will be done about the accusations.

When it was announced in June that the National Security Committee, or KNB in its Russian initials, had detained Tokmadi after months of surveillance, many were stunned. The businessman had relatively recently even enjoyed positive overtures from President Nursultan Nazarbayev. 

Tokmadi’s spouse, Jamilya Aimbetova-Tokmadi, has now written on her Facebook page and posted a video on YouTube to claim that her husband is being physically abused in KNB holding cells in an attempt to force him to provide incriminating testimonies. 

“There are marks of torture on my husband’s body. But they forced him to sign a statement claiming he supposedly fell off a pull-up bar. What pull-up bar? My husband is a professional sportsman, a master of sport, he was in excellent physical fitness on the eve of the arrest. Now he can’t even talk properly. His speech is confused and he can’t even understand how he came to sign this statement about falling from the pull-up bar. What else have they forced him to sign?” Aimbetova-Tokmadi said in her impassioned address.

Love for sports was indeed part of Tokmadi’s upstanding public persona before the arrest.

Aimbetova-Tokmadi said her spouse was interviewed by KNB investigators without the presence of a lawyer and that they threatened to move him to an even worse cell than the one he is being held in now. She said investigators threatened to place Tokmadi in a cell with hardened criminals and to saddle him with new charges.

Tokmadi’s wife has asked that independent medical personnel be brought in to ensure her husband is being fed properly.

“I want the torture to stop. I will fight for his life, for the freedom and good name of my husband. I will fight for international sanctions to be imposed against anybody participating in this lawless outrage,” she said.

Aimbetova-Tokmadi has drawn up what she has termed a blacklist of KNB operatives, prosecutors and other justice officials who she claims are involved in the mistreatment of her husband.

No local media has gone anywhere near the story, however, so the appeal has so far been restricted only to social media. In any event, few will be shocked by allegations of abuse behind the walls of detention facilities. 
 
What is more surprising is when anybody is punished for such excesses. 

The director of the Kostanai branch of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Anastasia Miller, wrote on her Facebook page this week that Kostanai city court has ruled to grant $4,500 in compensation to Lyubov Doroshenko for the physical mistreatment she received at the hands of police officers. Two policemen accused of torture have also been convicted.

It is worth considering this matter in the appropriate context. Doroshenko’s situation appears to have been viewed as a straightforward instance of criminality, so granting compensation has limited broader relevance. When politics come into the picture, however, the outcome is rarely so positive.

Investigators insist that Tokmadi is guilty of his offenses, but his arrest and the jailing last year of a similarly flamboyant and prominent brewery tycoon from the south of Kazakhstan, Tohtar Tuleshov, have many scratching their heads about whether something more complicated than mere criminality is afoot. Some commentators argue that some regional kingpins may have stepped out of line and failed to respect the unwritten rules that underpin the conduct of the elite.