London, 5 August 2016
News that imprisoned journalist and political activist Vladimir Kozlov is to be granted early release is a welcome step, PEN International said today, while pointing out that Kozlov should never have been in prison in the first place. The organisation has long campaigned for Kozlov’s release alongside its local Kazakh PEN Centre, including through negotiations with senior Kazakh officials during a visit to the country in 2014.
‘We’re pleased that Vladimir Kozlov will finally be free in 15 days’ time,’ said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.
‘But Kozlov has spent far too long in prison merely for his peaceful expression. We call upon the Kazakhstan authorities to fully protect the right to freedom of expression and to ensure that no other writers have to suffer as Kozlov has.’
Vladimir Kozlov is a Kazakh journalist, human rights defender and a leader of Alga!, a political opposition party has been serving a seven-and-half-year prison sentence in penal colony LA 155/14 in Zarechnyy village (Illiysky district, Almaty Province) for ‘inciting social discord’ and ‘calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order of the state’. Kozlov was convicted in 2012, after his peaceful international advocacy on behalf of the striking oil workers in the city of Zhanaozen, south-west Kazakhstan.
‘I’m delighted that our discussions with Kazakh officials about the need for an early release of Vladimir Kozlov have come to fruition,’ said John Ralston Saul, President Emeritus of PEN International.
‘Nevertheless this is four years of his life lost in a prison cell. The process of rebuilding his life must now begin.’
PEN International has been campaigning for Kozlov’s immediate and unconditional release. In 2014, President of PEN International John Ralston Saul, International Secretary Hori Takeaki and Executive Director Carles Torner urged that Kozlov be released early during a meeting with senior officials during a visit to the country. Torner and a senior member of Kazakh PEN member Vladimir Karcev also visited Kozlov in prison.
Kozlov then featured as an ‘Empty Chair’ at PEN International’s 80th Congress in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in October 2014 where a letter he wrote to PEN’s delegates was read out.
For further information, please contact Sahar.Halaimzai@pen-international.org, Tel: +44 7405 0338.
PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in 1921, PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. International PEN is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088. www.pen-international.org