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Former Kazakh Student Might Face Death Penalty in the USA

On February 17 or 18 a U.S. Court will start hearings of Asel’s case. A 28 year citizen of Kazakhstan living in San Antonio, Texas, is accused of participation in Rosa Rosado’s murder.

The case sparked controversial discussions among Kazakhstani expatriates living in the United States and Canada. Many Kazakh citizens and Asel’s lawyer are sure that Asel is not guilty and that she should return to Kazakhstan to her son, who was born in American custody.

In April 2001 Asel Abdygapparova came to a police station in San Antonio, Texas, and gave information on what happened with Rosa Rosado, a missing single mother of two. Asel showed the spot where Rosa Rosado was buried by her killers and named the murderers – Ramon Hernandez and Santos Minjarez. The both named persons were immediately arrested. But 4 months after the two men’s arrest police detained Asel as well.

She has been in the custody of the State of Texas since then and is officially accused of participation in 37-year Rosa Rosado’s murder. On March 31, 2001, Rosa was kidnapped, raped and murdered. Bexar County court sentenced 31-year Santos Minjarez to death in March 2003; which was five moths after 30-year Ramon Hernandez had been sentenced to death too (October 2002). Ramon was Asel’s boyfriend.

Relatives of the murdered Rosa Rosado demanded death sentence for all the three. When Santos Minjarez was sent to get the lethal injection at the death sentence’s implementation center, Rosa Rosado’s father Fidel Rosado said that it was a too easy death for him in comparison with what he had done with his daughter. San Antonio Express News wrote in March 2003, that 16-year daughter of the victim - Maria Rosado, was not able to attend the last sessions of the trial because, as she said, she could not be in the same room with Minjarez.

According to Asel Abdygapparova, on the day of the tragedy, her boyfriend Ramon Hernandez and herself together with Ramon’s old friend Santos Minjarez were traveling by car. Asel was on the fifth month of pregnancy then. While in the car, Asel, as she says, felt tired and fell asleep. She woke up when Santos was pushing an unknown lady into the car.

The lady was Rosa Rosado. Santos Minjarez started beating the lady demanding her to give him cash. The woman was begging Santos to let her go saying that she had only credit cards, but no cash. Asel also asked Santos to let the lady go. The two men then forced the poor lady to get into a motel room. Santos threatened Asel and forced her to go to a nearby shop to buy a spade.

Hopeless Asel Abdygapparova is in jail now and once a week she speaks with her relatives in Almaty, Kazakhstan, through telephone. Her mother Saule Bilalovna Abdygapparova says that Asel cannot understand herself even now, why she followed Santos’ commands. Asel’s mother tries to comprehend her daughter’s feelings. According to her, Asel must have been very frightened for herself, for her future baby and for the baby’s father – Ramon Hernandez. But it was impossible for her to forget the horrible death of Rosa Rosado and she went to police.

In three days after her arrest, Asel delivered a child (a son) in a preliminary detention center in San Antonio. The birth was very complicated. A cesarean section was performed. The boy’s grandmother Saule Abdygapparova managed to compile all the necessary documents and took the baby to Almaty, Kazakhstan. She told RFE/RL that the boy was doing well. He is three years old now and his name is Ramon.

Asel does not know who killed Rosa – Hernandez or Minjarez, but she is confident that she herself is innocent. Her mother Saule says to RFE/RL’s Kazakh service:

“… She is sure in her position and she is confident that the justice will win.”

Saule Abdygapparova also told RFE/RL that last year her daughter had hired a private lawyer and believes that the lawyer will be able to help her a lot.

“…She asked to change her lawyer because the case is developing very slowly. Beyond that, she wants her case to be discussed at the Jury Court. I think something should change in the beginning of this year”, - says Asel’s mother.

Kazakh Embassy in Washington D.C. informed RFE/RL’s Kazakh service that Asel’s case is expected to resume on February 17 or 18 this year. Kazakh Service of RFE/RL has managed to speak to Asel’s lawyer in Texas. To hire a lawyer is very difficult in Asel’s situation since it is very expensive. Authorities of Texas agreed to pay Asel’s lawyer. Lawyer Carolyn Wentland said to RFE/RL’s Kazakh service:

“… There is a good possibility she could be found guilty because the law part is very difficult to get around in the state of Texas. And even though I do not believe she is guilty, that possibility exists.”

RFE/RL correspondent asked Asel’s lawyer if there was an opportunity to extradite Asel to Kazakhstan to serve her jail term in a Kazakh penitentiary in case if she was found guilty. The Lawyer answered:

“… That I don’t know about. I mean, I don’t know enough about that to be able to tell you one way or another. But I am researching it and seeing if the possibility like that exists.”

One more judicial moment is the fact that Asel did not know peculiarities of American justice system. If Asel had signed an agreement on her immunity with policemen before turning the two men over she might have escaped any trial even if she was involved in the crime. In other words Asel might have documented her readiness to cooperate with investigators and use the U.S. law on witnesses protection.

But Asel was absolutely unaware of such kind of peculiarities of U.S. laws and went to police to turn her boyfriend and his friend in thinking that the system works in the same way as it was shown in traditional Soviet detective movies. But U.S. Police traditions are very different and they do not accept motivations similar to those of Rodion Raskolnikov and Sonechka Marmeladova in Fiodor Dostoyevski’s “Crime and Punishment” Novel. Not knowing the U.S. laws and not being able to behave according to the U.S. laws when cooperating with police might lead to many years of jail or even to death penalty now. Asel’s lawyer Carolyn Wentland says:

“… If she had made a contract for immunity to turn over these individuals, she would not be facing this type of case.”

RFE/RL’s Kazakh service spoke to Kazakh Embassy in D.C. We asked Kazakh Consul Samat Janabay about his attitude to the actions undertaken by Kazakh expatriates in U.S. regarding Asel’s case. Mr. Janabay said:

“ I do not know concrete actions and the goals of such actions. I only know that Kazakhstani Diaspora tries to help somehow in this case. The Embassy is also working in that direction.”

Mr. Janabay was not able to give certain answers to the question about possibility to extradite Asel to Kazakhstan in case if she was found guilty. There are no bi-lateral agreements between the United States and Kazakhstan regulating such cases. Kazakh Consul also recommended those who wanted to get some clarifications to refer to Asel’s lawyer in Texas. If you are in Kazakhstan and have an opportunity to call to Texas, you can call lawyer Carolyn Wentland in the following way:

8 – signal – 10 - 1-210-225-7555,

You also can fax your questions to Asel’s lawyer to the following number:

8-signal –10-1-210-226-3596

In our next program you will be able to hear what Asel herself thinks about the whole case. Interview with Asel Abdygapparova is scheduled for the next “Parovoz” program of Radio Azattyq on Saturday morning in our regular issue.