Vienna, Austria: Alnur Mussayev and Vadim Koshlyak who are suspects in two murders and a series of serious crimes were released from custody by the decision of the Viennese court last month. This judgment is shocking for legal circles of Austria and raising questions about judicial system of the country.
Alnur Mussayev is a former head of the Kazakh intelligence service while Vadim Koshlyak is a former presidential bodyguard and both are accused of aiding late Rakhat Aliyev in the abduction and murder of two bankers of the Kazakh Nurbank in 2007.
The trial began on April 14 and had been dubbed among the most complicated in the history of Austrian justice. It involved more than 60 witnesses. This decision of the court was unexpected and is under question by judicial circles of Vienna that how court released accused of 2 murders by giving them doubt of slight differences of statements of witnesses those were 60 in number. The Prosecutor Office has already protested this decision to the higher authority and the Regional Court for Criminal Matters in Vienna has begun the consideration of the appeal.
Local journalists were equally surprised with this decision because the defendants are connected to the infamous case of Rakhat Aliyev, meaning they could be dangerous for society. In this case, the surprising humanism of Judge Boehm looks suspicious. One needs to be an utter optimist and confirmed before releasing accused allegedly involved in numerous murders instead of giving benefit of doubt for differences in some of statements of 60 witnesses.
The explanation that accompanied the judge’s decision is equally surprising. It was based on small procedural inconsistencies that did not change the essence of the case, but perfectly embodied the spirit of casuistry.
It is one thing when the essence of the case is sacrificed to verbiage, when getting into particularities and minor nuances and details puts truth and justice aside. But it is a completely different when the judge thus influences the jury, willingly or not. It is a very sensitive sphere and the decision on such resonant cases could be changed with a tiniest shift of balance. And if the judge suddenly shows condescension to the defendants, he puts in doubt his status of an impartial arbitrator.
It is then no coincidence that Austrian media, usually very reserved about their evaluation of court cases, published a series of critical articles about the works of justice in the country. “Österreich”, one of Austria’s largest newspapers, bitingly spoke up about the entire justice system basing on this high-profile case.
Before Judge Boehm, 16 judiciaries in Austria, including the Constitutional Court of Austria, unanimously agreed that Mussayev and Koshlyak were lawfully under arrest. Murder charges (for murders of two Kazakhstani bankers) against them had been agreed upon by all Austrian institutions concerned, including the Ministry of Justice. Now, suddenly the entire judicial system is under question. Aren’t there too many scandals around this case? First, the main defendant, Rakhat Aliyev committed suicide in Josefstadt prison, and then this judicial confusion occurs. This criminal case is shaking the ground beneath the Austrian judicial system.
Could it be that Judge Boehm got scared that Koshlyak and Mussayev too will choose to leave this world under the burden of conscience? It is not the first time that Judge Andreas Boehmwas noticed to be not entirely objective towards the defendants. In particular, he did not let the witnesses from the claimant’s side speak. In the course of the court session on 28 April when Aidar Khassenov’s widow, Sholpan, tried to talk about Koshlyak and his involvement in the events that first led to the disappearance of the two bankers (her husband being one of them) and their subsequent deaths, the Judge said that he had little interest in these details.
During the examination of the driver Sapozhnikov, Judge Boehm noted that had he been told to drive masked men around, he would have certainly asked what was going on. The Judge was probably forgetting that the defendants represented force structures — men on job and could requisite any means of transportation no questions asked.
When the witnesses couldn’t recall some details, even though it’s been more than 8 years since the events in question, the Judge began to pressure them psychologically, implying criminal liability for false testimony.
At some point Judge Boehm seemingly tried to move the case to the political plane and called in Rysbek Sarsenbayev, the brother of Kazakhstani political figure Altynbek Sarsenbayev, who was killed in February 2006, for testimony. It should be noted that the ex-General Mussayev and his subordinate Koshlyak were trying to prove that they were being persecuted for political reasons. Sarsenbayev’s case, which was not directly related to the case in consideration, could influence the opinions of the juries.
Despite the protest from the Viennese prosecutor’s office, Judge Boehm decided to examine Sarsenbayev. Surprisingly, the witness said that Mussayev and Aliyev were involved in the contract killing of his brother. He also supposed that Mussayev and Koshlyak were complicit in the bankers’ murder. He thus supported the prosecutors’ point and perhaps Judge Boehm, who was so insistent on this examination, suddenly lost interest in Sarsenbayev case. He stopped him from talking and said: “This is an unrelated case”.
This infamous high-profile case seems to be tangled up in lies. The defendants, trying to escape responsibility, rely on the distrust European countries seem to have towards the countries located east of Vienna. The status of a freedom fighter on one hand and a thick wallet, that allows for total legal protection, on the other, give them a chance to live good lives. Cases like that have been seen to drag on for years.
Mussayev, for example, actively stirred up a rumour in the media that he was a political refugee. Several times he blamed Kazakhstan for keeping his close relatives hostage. His words have apparently never been checked. It was discovered that his first wife and daughters don’t experience any problems. Mussayev’s eldest daughter, Almira is married to a Kazakhstani diplomat in the Czech Republic. His younger daughter is married to a Russian citizen. All of them travel freely across countries and no one in Kazakhstan is impeding them.
The second wife, with whom Mussayev is in a common law marriage, also visited Austria several times with their son.
Meanwhile, his personal characteristics make him look somewhat like a dictator. He forced his girlfriend to renounce Christianity and convert to Islam, changing not only her religion but her name too. However, this is everyone’s personal choice. What’s worse is that there is information about Mussayev killing one of his mistresses. This story would make a good script for a thriller. When one of Mussayev’s girlfriends gave birth to a boy, he wanted to take the child from her. The mother refused and the General planted drugs on her provoking her arrest. After serving her time in jail, the woman tried to get her son back, but soon enough she mysteriously died. However, according to Judge Boehm, this has nothing to do with this case.
The existing materials available today to the Austrian judicial system are enough to create a profile of Mussayev. It is then most important for the system to stay truly objective and impartial.
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