Kazakhstan Detains Famous Investigative Reporter

Опубликовано: 20 Декабрь 2022

Mikhail Kozachkov FBMikhail Kozachkov (Photo: Facebook, License)

A court in Kazakhstan decided on Tuesday to keep one of the country’s best known investigative reporters in custody for two months and investigate allegations against him which he and his supporters believe to have been fabricated in revenge over articles he wrote.

Mikhail Kozachkov, a reporter for the local publication “Vremya” who also runs his telegram-channel with more than 90,000 subscribers, was arrested on Sunday by the Agency for Financial Monitoring which accused him of taking bribes from an organized crime group to smear their victims.

Dozens of Kazakh journalists and human rights defenders raised their eyebrows when they heard about the accusations and demanded on Monday his immediate release.

The Agency said Kozachkov had received the equivalent of some US$110,000 from the head of an organized crime group, Yeldos Kospayev, for smearing the gang’s victims on his Telegram-channel.

Kospayev’s group had allegedly been forcefully taking over real estate and businesses in the country. A few days ago a court froze more than 150 apartments the group had acquired this way. Officers who raided the syndicate’s premises seized jewelry and over nine million dollars in cash.

Several local media outlets claimed that Kospayev is connected to the younger brother of the country’s former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Kozachkov denied the allegations.

“In fact, the reason for my detention is personal revenge on the part of the head of the AFM, Zhanat Elimanov. I was informed of his hostility this summer (…),” read a statement Kozachkov passed on to his colleagues via his lawyers.

He said that he was told about Elimanov’s anger over an article that mentioned his wife.

“I wrote it because it seemed strange to me that the wife of the main fighter against financial crimes became a client of a financial pyramid. The text is on Facebook, it's called "Boys won't understand," Kozachkov said.

The reporter explained that he naively believed that with the recent changes his country would build a new and fair society.

Thousands hit the streets in January this year to protest against rising gas prices but then focused their anger at the first president of the country Nursultan Nazarbayev and his circle, accusing them of corruption. Nazarbayev resigned in 2019 but apparently continued to pull the strings.

The demonstrations turned violent and although they were brutally crushed - resulting with the death of more than 230 people - they also marked the end of Nazarbayev’s influence.

“I am being persecuted for the truth. I am being persecuted because I tried to tell people about how they are being deceived, robbed, suppressed, their rights are violated and their future is taken away from them,” Kozachkov added.

Adil Soz, a media freedom watchdog, pointed out that the Agency for Financial Monitoring declared the journalist guilty already in its press release and violated his right to defend himself.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for his immediate release.

“The arrest of Mikhail Kozachkov, a well-known anti-corruption journalist who frequently published allegations against state officials, law enforcement agencies, and wealthy businessmen, is concerning, especially given reports of procedural and rights violations against him by the investigating body,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Kazakh authorities should reveal the nature of the charges or release Kozachkov pending a transparent and impartial investigation of his case and ensure that his legal rights are fully upheld.”