Although they should spend time in jail, Tilek Tabarak and the Musakhan-Alimuly duo will remain in Kazakhstan, thanks to international support.
by Leila Adilzhan
Readers of Bitter Winter are familiar with the stories of Tilek Tabarak, and of Kaster Musakhan and Murager Alimuly. They are ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang, where they were persecuted for the sole reasons of clinging to their Kazakh identity. They escaped to Kazakhstan, where they were accused of crossing the border illegally and detained. The CCP then submitted Kazakhstan to strong pressures to have them deported back to China.
On January 21, the verdicts were announced about the two cases. A court in the city of Zaisan sentenced Kaster Musakhan and Murager Alimuly to a year in prison on charges of having crossed the border between China and Kazakhstan illegally.
Commenting on the decision after the verdict was announced, Judge Shynar Ospanova said that, subtracting the time spent in the pre-trial detention center, convicts should serve five months and 24 days in prison. According to the verdict, convicts will serve their sentence in a minimum security institution. The important point is that they will not be deported to China.
In a separate case, Tilek Tabarak was sentenced to 15 days in jail for having illegally crossed the border. That means that Tilek, too, will not be deported to China.
Although in other countries it is acknowledged that those escaping persecution should not be punished for crossing the border illegally, as they acted out of need, the fact that deportation back to China was avoided is a great victory for the Kazakh people and human rights activists.
We at independent Atajurt would like to acknowledge the crucial role of the Lithuanian and European MPs who wrote a letter of support for the refugees to the Kazakh authorities. I can assure them the letter was very influential. Also, I want to thank Massimo Introvigne and all the Bitter Winter team. We realize that, without your help, the outcomes of the two cases may have been very much different.