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Reference ID 09ASTANA1029 (original text)
SubjectKAZAKHSTAN: LEGAL PROCEEDINGS IN PEACE CORPS CASE OVER,
OriginEmbassy Astana
ClassificationSECRET
ReleasedAug 30, 2011 01:44
CreatedJun 16, 2009 11:19
VZCZCXRO0474
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DE RUEHTA #1029/01 1671119
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O 161119Z JUN 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5623
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1671
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0532
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0242
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0499
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0379
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0003
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 0662
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1044
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1747
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0718
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1229
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1145
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001029 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, CA/OCS 
FRANKFURT FOR REGIONAL CONSULAR OFFICER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/15/2034 
TAGS:          
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  LEGAL PROCEEDINGS IN PEACE CORPS CASE OVER, 
VOLUNTEER DEPARTS COUNTRY 
 
REF: (A) ASTANA 0983    (B) ASTANA 0592 
     (C) ASTANA 0547 (NOTAL) 
     (D) ASTANA 0443    (E) ASTANA 0381 
     (F) ASTANA 0373    (G) ASTANA 0175 
     (H) ASTANA 0135    (I) ASTANA 0055 
     (J) 08 ASTANA 2576 (K) 08 ASTANA 2410 (NOTAL) 
 
Classified by: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland, 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
 1. (S) SUMMARY:  Peace Corps Volunteer Anthony Sharp departed 
Kazakhstan on June 13, after an appellate court vacated his two-year 
probation at the Prosecutor General's request.  Sharp's departure 
ends an affair that began on November 26, when he was arrested in 
what appeared to be a classic Soviet-style set-up, likely 
orchestrated by the pro-Russian old-guard at the Committee for 
National Security (KNB) and aimed at discrediting the Peace Corps and 
damaging bilateral relations.  Over the course of more than six 
months, the Ambassador repeatedly raised Sharp's case with senior 
government officials, including with President Nazarbayev on March 
 30.  Though there were a number of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, 
the case moved slowly toward resolution following the Nazarbayev 
meeting.  Keeping everything out of the media was critical to the 
successful outcome.  END SUMMARY. 
 
PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER DEPARTS KAZAKHSTAN 
 
 2. (C) Peace Corps Volunteer Anthony Sharp left Kazakhstan on June 
13, following the completion of all legal proceedings against him, 
and official confirmation from the Kazakhstani government that it had 
no objections to his departure. 
 
 3. (C) On April 3, an Ust-Kamenogorsk appeals court upheld the 
criminal conviction against Sharp on explosives charges, but 
suspended his two-year prison sentence, putting him on probation for 
two years (ref B).  Following that ruling, we worked with Sharp's 
attorneys and the government to identify a legal avenue for him to 
depart Kazakhstan immediately, rather than at the end of the 
probation period.  On the advice of Talgat Kaliyev, advisor to 
Foreign Minister Tazhin and the MFA's point-person on the Sharp case, 
we sent the MFA a diplomatic note on April 13 requesting the 
government confirm it had no objections to Sharp's departure. 
Kaliyev subsequently told us that the MFA was on board with the 
departure, but working-level officials at other agencies, including 
the Prosecutor General's Office, were reluctant to make any decision 
on the issue.  On May 21, the Charge raised Sharp's case with 
Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor Kairat Sarybay, who had been 
involved from the beginning.  He expressed surprise that Sharp was 
still in Kazakhstan, but apparently intervened to get the bureaucracy 
to resolve the case within the limitations of Kazakhstani law. 
Sarybay reaffirmed the government's "political will" to bring about a 
final resolution during a June 5 meeting with the Ambassador (ref A). 
 
FINAL RESOLUTION 
 
 4. (C) On June 3, a prosecutor filed a motion with the 
Ust-Kamenogorsk appeals court recommending Sharp's sentence be 
reduced to time served -- i.e., one night in jail.  The court granted 
the motion, vacating Sharp's two-year probation.  Sharp's attorneys 
then obtained the necessary documentation confirming that there were 
no further restriction's on Sharp's travel, and on June 12, the MFA 
called us in to hand us their response diplomatic note to our April 
13 note, confirming that there were no impediments to Sharp's 
departure.  Sharp left Kazakhstan on June 13.  The Ambassador sent a 
letter to Foreign Minister Tazhin on June 16 thanking him for his 
assistance on the case. 
 
A SOVIET-STYLE PROVOCATION 
 
 5. (S) As reported in reftels, on November 26, just days before the 
end of his Peace Corps tour, Sharp accepted an invitation from two 
 
ASTANA 00001029  002 OF 002 
 
 
Kazakhstani citizens, including his local counterpart, to take a 
late-night tour of a gold mine near the town of Ridder.  Upon exiting 
the mine, one of the locals gave Sharp his bag to hold while he 
climbed back over the security fence.  Local authorities were 
waiting, and promptly arrested Sharp, claiming that the bag contained 
industrial explosives.   The incident had all the makings of a 
Soviet-style set-up, engineered by the pro-Moscow old guard in the 
Committee for National Security (the KNB, successor to the KGB), and 
aimed at discrediting the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan and at damaging 
U.S.-Kazakhstan relations at a time when Kazakhstan's leadership saw 
the election of President Obama as an opportunity to enhance its 
relationship with the United States. 
 
 6. (S) The Ambassador raised Sharp's case in December and January 
with State Secretary Kanat Saudabayev (refs H and I) and with Sarybay 
(ref G), stressing that we believed it was a provocation, and urging 
that the government intervene at the highest levels to have it 
dismissed and to have Sharp deported from the country.   The police 
concluded their investigation on January 14, and charges were brought 
against Sharp for illegal possession of explosives.  Kaliyev informed 
us on January 21 that he had worked out an arrangement with the 
relevant government agencies:  If Sharp agreed to a closed trial and 
we all kept the case out of the media, Sharp would be convicted, but 
given a suspended sentence and immediately deported.  Sharp accepted 
the deal, but the government failed to live up to its bargain.  After 
a month long-trial which ended on February 26, a judge convicted 
Sharp on the explosives charges and sentenced him to two years in 
prison.  He was immediately taken off to jail, but was released the 
following day after the Ambassador got Foreign Minister Tazhin to 
intervene. 
 
 7. (S) Tazhin made clear that the KNB and Ministry of Internal 
Affairs had pushed back and were pressing their view that Sharp was 
an "American spy."  He nevertheless promised that on appeal, the case 
would be resolved in accordance with the earlier agreement.  It 
appeared, however, that President Nazarbayev would himself make the 
final decision.  Sarybay arranged a meeting for the Ambassador with 
Nazarbayev on March 30, where the Ambassador expressed regret that 
Sharp had trespassed at the mine, but conveyed our hope we could put 
the case behind us and move forward on enhancing the bilateral 
relationship (ref C).  Though there were a number of bureaucratic 
hurdles to overcome, the case moved slowly toward resolution 
following the Nazarbayev meeting. 
 
 8. (S) COMMENT:  Though the case took months to resolve, our 
confidence that Nazarbayev would do the right thing in end was not 
misplaced.  He was likely the decider, siding with his more 
progressive advisors, like Tazhin and Sarybay, and against the KNB, 
to protect the bilateral relationship and thus maintain his 
long-standing policy of balancing Kazakhstan's relations with Russia, 
China, and the United States.  Key to the successful resolution of 
the case was keeping it out of the media -- enabling the Kazakhstanis 
to avoid the political embarrassment of trying to explain the 
provocation publicly and allowing them to back down and let Sharp go 
free.  END COMMENT. 
 
HOAGLAND
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