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Kazakstan: Front Line Protection Coordinator travels 16 hours by car to visit imprisoned human rights defender Evgeniy Zhovtis
Front Line's Protection Coordinator for Central Asia recently traveled 16 hours by car to visit imprisoned human rights defender Evgeniy Zhovtis
"I am back to Astana. We had a terrific 16-hours journey by car from Astana to Ust-Kamenogorsk in Eastern Kazakhstan with a driver who happened to be a colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Moral of the tale - don't expect a normal driver after applying for a permit to visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that sends it to the ministry of Internal Affairs. Not a bad guy, the colonel, but not a driver at all and if you consider the state of Kazakhstan roads, you will feel sorry for his poor Mercedes. Apart from travelling with this guy, nothing to mention. The people in Zhovtis's penal colony were extremely polite, we asked to stay till 13.00 and were given a permit to stay till 14.45. Among the DVDs we brought to Evgeniy were 3 seasons of 'Prison break' and the guards on check-point found this very funny, one woman asked Evgeniy if she could borrow it)
He is in good shape and in a good mood, which is probably easier in spring with trees on blossom. That day, there was no water at all in the colony and usually, prisoners only have hot water in winter, with the beginning of the heating season. He sent all his best wishes to all the friends, he continues to follow the world's news so it is always a pleasure to speak with him.
To date, Evgeniy Zhovtis has been given 3 'warnings' by the colony administration that prevent him from being eligible for conditional release despite his active involvement in colony's life. He is providing prisoners with legal aid, filed 50 complaints and won 12 cases before tribunals, which resulted in the release of 7 prisoners, he is the captain of colony's football team and actively involved in sports activities. He helped to renew all the equipment that allows prisoners to get hot water in the collective shower, etc. In most prisons this would have been enough to cancel his warnings but here the prison authorities seem determined not to see anything that would hasten his release.
I was forbidden to take a picture of him. The head of the colony who came to meet us pretended that I needed a special permit from above, even if it is perfectly within his power. So I just took the picture of the entrance.