ASTANA -- Kazakhstani analysts of extremist content are sharpening their skills.
The forensic scientists, who perform textual reviews of confiscated literature and discs on behalf of the police and courts, attended a training seminar in Astana May 18.
"The workshop was organised by the Forensic Science Centre [FSC] of the Justice Ministry," the ministry press office told Central Asia Online. Participants in the seminar included analysts from the FSC and personnel from police, the government's Committee for Religious Affairs and judicial bodies.
A foreign instructor showed the attendees examples of online propaganda and online calls to commit terrorist acts.
To law enforcement, the person to track down in such cases is the individual who publishes and distributes the image online, more so than the creator of the image.
"Anyone who distributes such material on the internet ... comes under articles 256 and 174 of the Kazakhstani criminal code," Zhambyl attorney Aidos Otorbekov told Central Asia Online.
Some offenders have received sentences of three to seven years, he said. A 10-year sentence awaits offenders if they lead a civic group or use the mass media to commit incitement, he added.
A thorough process
Kazakhstani authorities examine seized material for extremist content in two stages. Police specialists perform the first review. Court-employed forensic scientists make the final determination.
In the past three years, authorities in Astana, Almaty, Shymkent and Ust-Kamenogorsk -- the only four cities with such capacity -- have analysed 3,000 seized documents and recordings, according to presentations at the Astana seminar.
Presently, Kazakhstani authorities have the capacity to review Kazakh- and Russian-language texts. They intend to acquire capacity for Arabic, Chinese and other languages.
Raising forensic scientists' skills
Forensic scientists continue to improve their skills in the fight against extremism.
For example, the Almaty-based Institute for Forensic Analysis, part of the Justice Ministry, in March concluded a memorandum on co-operation with the Almaty-based Institute for Philosophy, Political Sciences and Religious Studies (IPH), part of the Education and Science Ministry.
The arrangement enables forensic scientists to attend theological training sessions at the IPH. Seven FSC analysts received such training at IPH in April, a source at the FSC told Central Asia Online.
Growing demand by authorities for skilled forensic analysts has led to courses to introduce their profession as a specialisation in Kazakhstani universities.
"With the support of the Education and Science Ministry, we have introduced 'forensic science' as a master's-level discipline in universities," Isidor Borchashvili, director of the FSC, told Central Asia Online. "We are working now on making it a doctoral specialisation."
Private sector is ready to help
Another innovation is the impending creation of private analysts to help state-employed forensic scientists, meant to relieve the public sector of a considerable workload.
"Authorities plan to transfer the conduct of certain forms of analysis to the private sector, including theological analysis," Taraz theologian Aidarkhan Kalikulov told Central Asia Online.
Once he obtains a license to operate as a private forensic analyst, his work "will have status equal to that of an analysis performed by a government agency", Kalikulov said.
The Kazakhstani government is working to make that situation a reality, Kalikulov said, adding that the lower chamber of parliament has approved a relevant bill, which now awaits consideration by the upper chamber and the president.
Shymkent public defender Alma Kubasheva welcomes the expansion of forensic science to the private sector, should it become legal.
"If a dispute arises [over interpretation of materials], the defence will be able to seek private forensic scientists and obtain an alternative conclusion," she told Central Asia Online. "This makes it possible to avoid mistakes, speed up forensic examinations and raise the level of forensic examinations."
If private forensic scientists gain permission to operate in Kazakhstan, a Chamber of Forensic Scientists -- not yet formed -- will regulate their activities, she said.