Aix-en-Provence court judges hit with complaint for criminal abuse of authority
© 10.07.2014

Lawyers of kazakh political opponent seeking criminal investigation of judges believed to have used secret documents to write decisions in favor of his extradition to Russia or Ukraine 

Aix-en-Provence court under fire for criminal abuse of authority;
Collusion between judges and prosecutor led to grossly unfair proceedings 

Aix-en-Provence, July 10, 2014 — Lawyers of Kazakh political opponent Mukhtar Ablyazov have announced they are filing a criminal complaint against Aix-en-Provence judges who appear to have unlawfully conspired to approve his extradition to Russia or Ukraine.

The complaint follows ongoing leakages in Ukraine of e-mails and documents that have come to light after the collapse of the regime of Viktor Yanukovich. The leakages include French court documents that show that prior to the Ablyazov extradition hearing in Aix-en-Provence on December 12, 2013, local prosecutor Solange Legras secretly submitted documents to the judges who were to decide on the extradition. Representatives of Russia and Ukraine had given these documents to the local prosecutor. The documents contained severe inaccuracies and misinformation. Ablyazov never had an opportunity to challenge any of these documents in court. The judges used these documents in deciding in favor of Ablyazov’s extradition to Russia or Ukraine. Twin court decisions issued by the Aix-en-Provence court on January 9, 2014 gave priority to the Russian extradition request.

On April 9, 2014, France’s Cassation Court annulled the Aix-en-Provence court’s extradition judgments. The Cassation Court censured the Aix-en-Provence court for accepting and using one document illegally submitted by lawyers acting for Ukraine, but at the time of the Cassation Court’s deliberations the full extent of the Aix-en-Provence court’s reliance on secretly submitted documents was unknown.

Ablyazov’s lawyers previously criticized numerous due process violations endured by the prime political opponent of Kazakhstan’s “President-for-Life” Nursultan Nazarbayev, throughout the chaotic and disorganized proceedings in Aix-en-Provence that ended with the surprise decisions in favor of extradition. The information that has now come to light about the inner workings of the proceedings points to possibly grave criminal violations committed by the judges.

The Cassation Court sent Ablyazov’s case to the Lyon Court of Appeal for new hearings, which are scheduled for September 25, 2014.

Both Russia and Ukraine are seeking Ablyazov’s extradition on behalf of Kazakhstan, and by doing so the three countries have sought to eliminate him as a leading proponent of democratic reform who could trigger a contagion of political opposition in former Soviet republics.

Ablyazov maintains he is innocent and the charges against him are fabricated and absurd. The charges relate to the unlawful nationalization of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank, a former emerging-markets success story that was destroyed in a reckless and unlawful 2009 nationalization that triggered enormous losses. Ablyazov was the owner and chairman of BTA Bank prior to its nationalization. The Kazakh regime has since tried to deflect the blame for the bank’s destruction onto Ablyazov. He claims that it will be impossible for him to have a fair trial in Russia, Ukraine or Kazakhstan, and that he will be unfairly imprisoned, tortured or killed if extradited to any of those countries.

The gravity of the stakes for Ablyazov, who has already been detained for almost one year pending his extradition hearings, make any finding of criminal abuse of authority committed by the Aix-en-Provence judges particularly serious.

In recent months a four-part series of articles on the corruption behind the Ablyazov extradition proceedings has been published on the Ukrainian website, including the revelations from the Aix-en-Provence Court.

On April 9, 2014, Ablyazov’s French lawyers, led by Jean-Pierre Mignard, announced they had submitted a complaint to the French Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, concerning the revelations. In their complaint to the Minister, the lawyers demanded that France’s Inspectorate General of Judicial Services launch an investigation into apparent “multiple, grave and repeated breaches” of due process as well as violations of professional ethics by the judges and prosecutor in Aix-en-Provence. The lawyers called into question whether Ablyazov, his lawyers or the French Republic itself should continue to have faith in the Aix-en-Provence judges and prosecutor or in the legitimacy of the court’s processes.

On March 18, 2014, the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic rejected a Ukrainian extradition request targeting one of Ablyazov’s ex-associates. On April 9, 2014, the High Court of Justice in London rejected a Ukrainian extradition request targeting another Ablyazov’s ex-associates. The English court further found there was “no doubt whatsoever” that the Ukrainian extradition request was itself fraudulent and abusive.

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