Plus, Russian officials denounce the Sakharov Prize nomination for jailed punkers, and Uzbekistan’s first daughter gets further embroiled in mobile phone scandals.by Ky Krauthamer, Joshua Boissevain, Andrew McIntyre, and Nino Tsintsadze 26 September 2012
A Kazan court sentenced two police officers to prison 25 September over their role in the illegal detention and fatal abuse of a suspect, Sergei Nazarov, in March. Nine other officers face trial in the case that brought worldwide attention to police brutality in the Tatarstan capital, the BBC reports.
Ramil Nigmatzyanov and Ilshat Garifullin were jailed for two and two and a half years respectively for exceeding their authority by unlawfully detaining Nazarov, 52, on a minor charge and falsifying his witness statement.
Four other former Kazan police officers are suspected of beating and sexually abusing Nazarov, The Moscow Times reports. Nazarov later died in a hospital.
Reports of suspects being abused and tortured are not rare in Russia, but the brutal nature of the Kazan incident caused much soul searching in Russia. Garifullin apologized to Nazarov’s family in court and asked to be given a suspended sentence and the opportunity to pay restitution, The Moscow Times writes.
Tatarstan’s interior minister, Asgat Safarov, resigned as the public outcry over the killing grew but was appointed the republic’s deputy prime minister in May.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev shifted Karim Masimov from the premiership to his own office as chief of staff 24 September, in what analysts interpret variously as a move to keep potential successors guessing or a boost to the political fortunes of Masimov, a firm Nazarbaev ally who became prime minister in 2007.
The move reflects Nazarbaev’s confidence in Masimov, political analyst Dosym Satpaev said, according to Pakistan’s News International.
“The presidential administration is an institution that impacts all aspects of Kazakh life,” Satpaev said. “Masimov had economic duties before. Now he is a political manager. He definitely does not lose from this – he only wins.”
Analyst Aidos Sarym told Reuters the reshuffle indicates that Nazarbaev, 72, is not ready to name a successor.
"The appointment of Karim Masimov or Serik Akhmetov serves only one goal: to balance the system of clan and group connections and allow the president to feel comfortable," Sarym said.
A Russian Foreign Ministry official has dismissed the European Parliament’s nomination of the three jailed members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot for the annual Sakharov Prize as interference in Russia’s internal affairs, Gazeta.ru reports.
The women were nominated for the prestigious award earlier this month by Werner Schulz, vice chairman of the parliament’s delegation to an EU-Russia cooperation committee. On 25 September State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak, saying Schulz had shown “amazing bias and lack of objectivity” by nominating the women, said presenting the prize named after the dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov to “those who cynically insulted the feelings of believers and behaved outrageously in a church will be an insult to the memory of the great man in the eyes of many Russian citizens,” ITAR-TASS reports.
In August the three Pussy Riot members were found guilty of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison for performing a song criticizing President Vladimir Putin’s ties to the Orthodox Church in a Moscow cathedral. Russian officials have maintained a hard line on the band in the face of international support for the women’s cause. A bill pending in the Duma would increase penalties for behavior that offends religious beliefs and for desecration of religious buildings or objects. These crimes would be punishable by up to five years in prison or fines 100 times greater than those now in place, Gazeta.ru reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling for tougher penalties against drunk drivers days after seven people, including teenagers, died when a car slammed into pedestrians waiting at a Moscow bus stop.
Putin said stronger penalties would reduce the number of such tragedies.
“Some acts should just be punished; unfortunately, there is no other way. … We will have to toughen the law in this field. The current legislation does not work in our society,” Putin told members of the presidential arts and culture council 25 September, Vesti.ru reports.
The State Duma is drafting proposals for new legislation on drunk driving in the wake of the 22 September tragedy on Minskaya Street in the capital, RIA Novosti writes. The ruling United Russia party is proposing to raise fines and even confiscate the cars of drunk drivers, with loss of driving privileges or prison sentences for repeat offenders.
The driver arrested after Saturday’s crash, Alexander Maximov, was drunk and had a previous drunk driving arrest on his record, according to the Kyiv Post.
The daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov is being linked to two major recent scandals involving separate international telecoms operating in the country, EurasiaNet.org reports.
In the case of MTS, the Russian telecom giant that is in the process of having its local subsidiary, Uzdunrobita, seized by Uzbek authorities, analysts have speculated that someone within Karimov’s circle wants a bigger piece of the mobile industry. Karimova, who owned most of Uzdunrobita until its 2004 sale to MTS, has been one of the names floated in media reports as being behind the state takeover, EurasiaNet.org reports. In response to the expropriation, the Russian Interior Ministry has launched its own criminal inquiry, according to Uznews.net.
Karimova’s name has also been mentioned in connection with the activities of TeliaSonera, a mobile operator primarily owned by the governments of Sweden and Finland. Swedish public television reported last week that TeliaSonera paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes for Uzbek operating licenses. The money, the report says, was paid to a one-woman company registered in Gibraltar and owned by Gayane Avakyan, a close Karimova associate. Avakyan is the subject of a Swiss money laundering investigation.
On 24 September, Karimov signed a law to strengthen property rights that includes a special section for foreign investors.
“Every entrepreneur should know that he can without fear invest in his own business, … keeping in mind that the government is guarding the legal rights of the property owner,” Karimov previously said of the law, EurasiaNet.org’s Choihona blog writes.