WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today expressed continued concern and dismay that – one year after the flawed trial and sentencing to a remote penal colony – procedural shortcomings in the case of human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis still have not been adequately addressed and he remains imprisoned.
“Yevgeny Zhovtis was honored this month with the 2010 Sakharov Freedom Award in a ceremony in Oslo,” Chairman Cardin said. “This month also marks one full year since he was imprisoned despite irregularities in the investigation and trial procedures in the case. I urge President Nazarbayev to review his case and to release him.”
Zhovtis is serving a four-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter in connection with a July 2009 traffic accident that killed Kanat Moldabaev. In March, Helsinki Commission staff visited Zhovtis in the prison colony in Ust-Kamenogorsk, where he described major procedural violations in the investigation of his trial and subsequent appeal, as well as significantly worse treatment than other prisoners. Zhovtis was awarded the prestigious Andrey Sakharov Freedom Award by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for his work to promote human rights and rule of law in Kazakhstan.
“I continue to believe that the procedural violations warrant a thorough examination of the handling of this case,” Cardin said. “Kazakhstan has been given the privilege of holding the OSCE Chairmanship and is hosting a summit. Kazakhstan should lead by example and ensure that one of its foremost human rights activists – who supported their Chairmanship bid – is treated fairly both in the judicial system and in the prison system. Up until now, this has not been the case.”