WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) today expressed their shock and dismay that Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court has declined to reconsider last year’s verdict against human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis.
“I am taken aback by the refusal to reexamine the conduct of this case,” Chairman Cardin said. “After President Obama discussed Yevgeny Zhovtis directly with President Nazarbayev at their recent bilateral meeting in Washington, there was reason to hope for a favorable outcome. Against that background, this is an especially big disappointment.”
“I have met with Mr. Zhovtis’s attorney and believe the procedural violations warranted a reconsideration of the case,” Co-Chairman Hastings said. “Kazakhstan holds the OSCE Chairmanship and should lead by example. This case underscores President Nazarbayev’s call for reforms of the judicial system.”
The Kazakh Supreme Court’s supervisory panel for criminal cases refused on April 26 to reconsider the verdict delivered against Zhovtis. Zhovtis is serving a four-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter in connection with a July 2009 traffic accident that killed Kanat Moldabaev. In March, U.S. 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. Zhovtis has testified twice before the U.S. Helsinki Commission. Last May, he sat on the same witness panel with Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the United States, Erlan Idrissov.