English PEN protests the detention of Ramazan Yesergepov, editor-in-chief of the weekly Alma-Ata Info, who was taken from his hospital bed on 6 January 2009 and remains held without charges.
According to our information, Ramazan Yesergepov, was being treated for hypertension at the Cardiology Institute in Almaty, when armed and masked security officers entered the hospital and took him away. The editor was taken to the Taraz regional office, in southern Kazakhstan, where he was interrogated by the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB). According to a statement by the KNB from 13 January, Yesergepov was arrested because he repeatedly ignored subpoenas issued by the agency.
Since December 2008, Alma Ata Info, has been investigated for the disclosure of two leaked memos published alongside an article in its 21 November issue. The article in question ‘Who rules the Country – The President or the KNB?’ is said to deal with a tax fraud allegation involving a local prosecutor and a judge. KNB officers raided the weekly’s newsroom, seizing the hard drives of seven computers.
There are recent reports that Yesergepov has not yet been charged, but he is threatened with charges of ‘disclosure of state secrets’ for which he faces up to eight years in prison, and a ban on professional activities of up to three years. There are also serious concerns that the editor has been denied adequate medical treatment.
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting quoted Miklos Haraszti, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, who, in a letter to the Kazakh Foreign Minister, referred to Yesergepov’s detention, stating that: “Keeping him under arrest, just as threatening him with imprisonment, would be a violation of the OSCE commitment to facilitate a fearless atmosphere for journalism.”
In the last month, two other assaults against the press have been reported in Kazakhstan, weakening further freedom of expression in the country. On 18 January 2009, Yermek Boltai, journalist and editor for the Kazakh service of the news site Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was beaten by five men outside his home in Almaty. Boltai covers social issues. Also in Almaty, Bakhytzhan Nuerpeisov, journalist for the weekly Obshchestvennaya Pozitsiva, was attacked on 5 February while on his way home. The journalist had recently criticised a local authority for its spending on luxury properties, in contrast to the deteriorating economic situation on the residents.
Please send appeals:
Protesting the detention without charge of editor-in-chief Ramazan Yesergepov, since 6 January 2009;
Calling for his immediate and unconditional release if detained in contravention of his right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kazakhstan is a signatory;
Seeking assurances of Ramazan Yesergepov’s well being, and urging he is given full access to all necessary medical assistance as a matter of urgency;
Calling on the Kazakh authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the independent press and to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists.
Mr Nursultan Abish-uly Nazarbayev
President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Office of the President
11 Mira Street
Mr Amanzhol Zhankuliyev
Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva
16, Chemin du Prunier
Case postale 6
Tel: 41 22 7886600
Fax: 41 22 7886602
His Excellency Kairat Abusseitov
Consulate of Kazakhstan
33 Thurloe Square
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/kazakhstaneditorseizedfromhospitalremainsdetained/