A small group of us was involved with an online campaign to bring to justice the alleged torturers and murderers of a young Russian woman.
One of the accused, Palestinian billionaire Issam Hourani (Issam Khorani), used the British legal system to try to silence us. He failed. He sued us in London and his accomplice sued us in Washington. We won the first round in Washington. That case is under appeal. Now we are fighting back in London. Our trial is set for January 30, 2017.
Below is our defense statement, filed September 23, 2016, with the High Court of London. The statement lays out many of Issam Hourani’s alleged crimes, including the illegal incarceration, abuse, torture, rape, and probable felony murder of Anastasiya Novikova, and the cover-up and illegal disposal of the body.
Amended Defence by Order of Master Davison dated 18 July 2016
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE CLAIM NO: HQ14D05164
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
ISSAM SALAH HOURANI
(also known as Issam Khorani)
(1) ALISTAIR THOMSON
(2) BRYAN MCCARTHY
(3) ALLISON BLAIR
(4) PSYBERSOLUTIONS LLC
(5) JOHN MICHAEL WALLER
References to paragraph numbers are, unless otherwise indicated, references to the numbered paragraphs of the Amended Particulars of Claim.
- Paragraph 1 is admitted. It is averred that the Claimant is married to Gulshat Aliyev, the younger sister of Rakhat Aliyev. The Claimant was therefore the brother-in-law of Mr Aliyev. Mr Aliyev was, at all material times until June 2007, married to Dariga Nazarbayeva, the eldest daughter of the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Claimant has also held Palestinian and Kazakhstan civil and diplomatic passports.
- The Claimant purports to be a businessman. In 2001, it is believed that the Claimant and his family had only modest wealth, owning a restaurant in Kazakhstan. However, after the Claimant’s marriage to Mr Aliyev’s sister, the Claimant and his family amassed vast wealth, owning media, oil and agricultural companies in Kazakhstan worth billions of dollars.
- In 2008, Mr Aliyev was sentenced to a total of 40 years in prison for various crimes.
- Criminal proceedings were brought against the Claimant and his brother Devincci Hourani. Audits of those companies revealed serious financial irregularities which made it possible to arrest and confiscate bank accounts, assets and property for an amount in excess of $500million. Assets belonging to the Claimant and his family were subsequently expropriated by the Kazakhstan authorities.
- Mr Aliyev died in February 2015 whilst in an Austrian prison awaiting trial on charges of the murder of two executives of the Kazakh Bank, Nurbank.
- Paragraph 2 is admitted.
- Paragraph 3 is noted. The Defendants do not plead to the unparticularised allegation in paragraph 3 that they conducted, organised and paid for a campaign, but plead to any particulars provided in the remaining paragraphs of the Amended Particulars of Claim.
The death of Anastasiya Novikova
- Anastasiya Novikova was an ethnic Russian who was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on 22 November 1980. In about 2000, she became a newsreader for NTK television in Kazakhstan. In or about 2001, Ms Novikova started a relationship with Mr Aliyev who owned, amongst other things, the television channel which Ms Novikova worked at. In 2002 Mr Aliyev was appointed the Kazakh Ambassador to Austria. In 2002 Ms Novikova moved to Austria with Mr Aliyev.
- In addition to being appointed as the ambassador to Austria, Mr Aliyev served in various other senior posts in the Kazakhstan government, and was deputy chief of the KNB state security service (Kazakhstan’s successor to the Soviet KGB) with the rank of general officer. Whilst serving in those government posts, Mr Aliyev abused his positions of authority in order to amass a fortune in the banking, oil refining, news media, telecommunications and agricultural commodities sectors.
- On 19 July 2002, the Medeu District Bureau of Vital Records in Almaty (Record No. 326) registered a sham marriage between Ms Novikova and Vitaly Piskunov. Mr Piskunov was the driver for Mr Akimkulov, a relative and, to all intents and purposes, employee of Mr Aliyev. The only time Mr Piskunov saw Ms Novikova was on the day of the marriage.
- In or about November 2002 Ms Novikova became pregnant with Mr Aliyev’s child.
- As a result of her pregnancy, Ms Novikova became an embarrassment to Mr Aliyev who was still married to Dariga Nazarbayeva. Mr Aliyev made Ms Novikova marry his driver, and relative, Daniyer Esten (aka Yesten). On 29 March 2003, whilst in Vienna, and as instructed by Mr Aliyev, a second sham marriage was registered between Ms Novikova and Mr Esten, notwithstanding the fact that Ms Novikova was still married to Mr Piskunov.
- The Claimant was a friend and close business associate, as well as the brother-in-law, of Mr Aliyev. Mr Aliyev and the Claimant were ‘like brothers’.
- The Claimant and his brother, Devincci Hourani, owned, leased and/or had an interest in, amongst other properties, an apartment in Beirut, Lebanon located in the Mahlab Building, Ramlet El Bayda Beirut (“the Claimant’s Apartment”). Consolidated Contractors Company (“CCC”) occupied the basement, first, second and seventh floor of the building while one of CCC’s owners, Said Khoury occupied the third and fourth floors. One of his partners, Hassib Sabagh occupied the fifth and sixth floors.
- The Claimant offered to Mr Aliyev the use of his Claimant’s Apartment in Beirut. Mr Aliyev paid for Ms Novikova to move to Beirut. Ms Novikova subsequently moved to Lebanon on 17 July 2003. Ms Novikova flew to Beirut International Airport from Greece on 17 July 2003. Mr Esten arrived at Beirut International Airport from Greece on the same date with Ms Novikova. Mr Esten was travelling on ordinary passport No. N3356068.
- Initially, Ms Novikova and Mr Esten lived in the Kazakhstan diplomatic residence in Beirut. A few months later, they went to live in the Claimant’s Apartment.
- On or about 23 August 2003, Mr Esten flew from Beirut International Airport heading to the Czech Republic, the day before Ms Novikova gave birth to her daughter.
- On or about 24 August 2003 Ms Novikova gave birth to Mr Aliyev’s child whilst she was living in the Claimant’s Apartment owned by the Claimant and/or his brother in Beirut.
- After the birth of her child, Mr Aliyev abandoned Ms Novikova. She subsequently had an affair with an Arab man in Lebanon. Mr Aliyev became aware of this and was unhappy about it. Accordingly, Mr Aliyev took steps to ensure that Ms Novikova was held captive at the Claimant’s Apartment and was repeatedly tortured, physically abused and beaten, raped and drugged.
- On or about 17 October 2003, Mr Esten arrived at Beirut International Airport from Austria. He was travelling on service passport No S0009398.
- On or about 11 December 2003, A M Bektybaev called Kurman Akimkulov on behalf of Mr Aliyev and told him to go to the airport with his belongings. Mr Akimkulov then travelled to Vienna, via Beirut along with Mr Aliyev, Vadim Koshlyak and Salykpaev Myrzakhan (the 1st Secretrary of the Republic of Kazakhstan Embassy in Austria), Atamkulov Beibut (then president of airline Atyrau Aue Zholy Airlines ), and Murat Zhusipov (the president of “KazTele-radio”). On arrival in Beirut they stayed at a hotel for about 2 days, and then took Mr Esten and the same group, except for Zhusipov and Beibut, to Vienna. Mr Akimkulov travelled in the cargo compartment of the aircraft “Falcon” in a cloth bag. This was organised by Mr Aliyev.
- On or about 12 December 2003, Mr Esten left Beirut International Airport heading to Austria. He was travelling on private passport No S0009398.
- Leonid Fomaidi worked for Mr Aliyev. In or around January 2004, Mr Fomaidi travelled to Beirut with Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak. Mr Fomaidi travelled with Mr Aliyev as an escort to give him massages but was not told the actual purpose of the trip. Mr Aliyev et al were met at Beirut airport by the Claimant. The Claimant picked up Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak. Mr Fomaidi stayed at the airport to collect luggage and then drove with the Claimant’s driver to the Claimant’s Apartment. The Claimant (who Mr Fomaidi believed to be the owner of the Claimant’s Apartment) met Mr Fomaidi near the Claimant’s Apartment took him up to the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak were already in the Claimant’s Apartment. The Claimant stayed for about 30 minutes and during this time spoke to Mr Aliyev in private.
- Mr Fomaidi was instructed by Mr Koshlyak to help him (Koshlyak) sound-proof a room in the Claimant’s Apartment (“the Torture Room”). They did so by putting foam mattresses against the balcony door and window which they covered with transparent duct tape. Mr Koshlyak explained that they were doing this to stop light and sound coming through. Mr Fomaidi suspected that the room was being prepared for him because he had previously witnessed the abuse, beatings and humiliation of Mr Akimkulov by Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak.
- Mr Aliyev periodically came into the Torture Room and gave orders where and how to position the mattresses and other furniture. Mr Fomaidi noticed that none of the beds in the Claimant’s Apartment had missing mattresses such that they must have been brought to the Claimant’s Apartment for this purpose.
- Later that day, the Claimant returned to the Claimant’s Apartment and brought an electric drill and closed ring brackets. Mr Fomaidi and Mr Koshlyak then used the electric drill to bore 2 holes in the walls. Mr Koshlyak put the brackets in the holes that had been drilled in the wall of the room.
- Mr Fomaidi installed a wireless remote video camera in the closet which stood opposite the alcove with brackets. The video camera had been bought in Vienna. It was taken to Beirut on the instructions of Mr Aliyev. As well as the video camera Mr Aliyev’s personal hair clipper was also taken to the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Fomaidi had previously seen Mr Aliyev use the hair clipper to cut Mr Akimukolov’s hair with it in Vienna, for the purpose of dominating and humiliating Mr Akimkulov. Mr Fomaidi put the monitor for the video camera in another room in order to monitor what was happening in the room in which the video camera was installed.
- Later the same day, at about 6-7pm, the Claimant brought Ms Novikova to the Claimant’s Apartment. Ms Novikova had a small child in her hands. Mr Fomaidi knew that Ms Novikova was the mistress of Mr Aliyev. He had previously seen her in Vienna and in Astana city and knew that Mr Aliyev had brought her from Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. The Claimant took Ms Novikova and the child to the Torture Room. Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak were in the room. The Claimant then left the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Koshlyak then came out of the Torture Room with the child and gave her to Mr Fomaidi to babysit. Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak were in the Torture Room with Ms Novikova until the next morning. In the morning Mr Aliyev came out of the Torture Room and sat next to Mr Fomaidi. Mr Aliyev told Mr Fomaidi that Ms Novikova claimed that Aliyev was the father of her child and that the Claimant was taking care of DNA tests of the child and Mr Aliyev. At no time did Ms Novikova come out of the Torture Room. Mr Aliyev went back into the Torture Room. When he came out again he said, in disgust, that Ms Novikova had “pissed herself”.
- At about 7-8 am that morning the Claimant came to the Claimant’s Apartment. He brought some food. He also brought an Asian woman, who Mr Fomaidi believed was possibly Filipino. The Asian woman took Ms Novikova’s daughter away.
- Mr Fomaidi was instructed by Mr Aliyev to go into the room with the monitor to watch over Ms Novikova so that “she does not escape“. Mr Fomaidi saw Ms Novikova in the room, on her knees and handcuffed to the wall. Her head had been shaved and her hair was lying on the floor next to her.
- The Claimant returned to the Claimant’s Apartment around lunchtime, bringing food with him. Messrs Aliyev and Koshlyak came out of the Torture Room and everyone sat at the dining table. Mr Aliyev told Mr Fomaidi that he intended to give Ms Novikova “methandrostenolone” so that she would gain weight and look ugly.
- Later that afternoon, Messrs Aliyev and Koshlyak fetched Ms Novikova from the Torture Room. Everyone sat around the dining table except for Ms Novikova who was not allowed to sit down.
- Mr Aliyev told Mr Fomaidi to clean the Torture Room. When he entered the room, Mr Fomaidi saw the handcuffs and the cut hair on the floor. He also saw two disposable syringes with needles on the floor by the bed. The rug, where Ms Novikova had been sitting, was wet and smelled of urine.
- Mr Aliyev repeatedly sexually abused, demeaned and humiliated Ms Novikova and instructed Mr Fomaidi to do the same. She did what she was told by Mr Aliyev. For example, on one occasion, she was told to take a banana and show how she performed oral sex with the Arab man with whom she had had an affair. She did this, and as she did so, Mr Koshlyak laughed.
- About 4 days after Mr Fomaidi had been in the Claimant’s Apartment, Mr Esten arrived in Beirut. The Claimant took him to the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Esten was ordered by Mr Aliyev to demean and to punch Ms Novikova. He was ordered by Mr Aliyev to assault her through sexual intercourse and oral sex. During this time the Claimant travelled back and forth to the Claimant’s Apartment.
- Mr Aliyev stayed in Beirut for approximately 6-7 days. Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlayak then left. A few days later Mr Akimkulov arrived at the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Aliyev then returned to the Beirut for about 1 day. Mr Esten was then assigned by Mr Aliyev to supervise everyone. Mr Aliyev and Mr Fomaidi then left Beirut and returned to Vienna.
- Around the end of January 2004, Mr Aliyev called Mr Akimkulov in Vienna and told him that he was to go on a business trip abroad. Mr Akimkulov found out that he was going to Beirut, when Mr Aliyev gave him an airplane ticket. Mr Aliyev warned Mr Akimkulov to watch over his cousin Mr Esten while in Lebanon, who lived and worked in Beirut.
- Mr Akimkulov arrived in Beirut via the Czech Republic. At the airport he was welcomed by the Consul in Lebanon, Yerbol Derbisaliyev. Mr Derbisaliyev took Mr Akimkulov to the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Akimkulov subsequently understood that the Claimant’s Apartment belonged to Mr Aliyev’s brother-in-law, the Claimant.
- Mr Esten let Mr Akimukolov into the Claimant’s Apartment. The next morning Mr Akimkulov saw Ms Novikova in the Claimant’s Apartment. She said she was the wife of Mr Esten. Later, Ms Novikova told Mr Akimkulov that when in Beirut she had met an Arab man with whom she had an intimate relationship. The Claimant found out about the relationship and told Mr Aliyev about it. Ms Novikova also told Mr Akimkulov that, in January 2004, after he found out about the relationship, Mr Aliyev had tied her hands to hooks in one of the rooms of the Claimant’s Apartment and had beaten Ms Novikova, Ms Novikova suffered broken ribs and bruising all over her body. Ms Novikova also told Mr Akimkulov that Mr Aliyev injected her with the drug ketonal.
- After speaking to Mr Koshlyak, it was apparent to Mr Akimkulov that the control over Ms Novikova should be permanent and she was forbidden to leave the Claimant’s Apartment.
- Mr Aliyev regularly visited Beirut in order to see Ms Novikova as well as his sister who was pregnant at the time.
- On or about 25 February 2004, Mr Esten arrived at Beirut International Airport from Italy.
- In or about April 2004, Mr Koshlyak arrived in Beirut. He stayed at the Claimant’s Apartment at the same time as Mr Akimkulov, Mr Esten and Ms Novikova. Mr Koshlyak stayed in Beirut approximately 5-7 days.
- On or about 24 April 2004, Mr Esten left Beirut International Airport heading to Kazakhstan.
- As a result of his conversations with Ms Novikova during May 2004, Mr Akimkulov considered that she was completely normal and rational.
- On or about 28 May 2004, Mr Akimkulov’s family travelled to Beirut with the approval of Mr Aliyev and stayed for approximately 7 days.
- Mr Akimkulov was aware that the Claimant lived in Beirut at the relevant time and that the main office of CCC was located in the same building.
- On or about 3 June 2004, Mr Esten arrived at Beirut International Airport from the Czech Republic.
- In June 2004, Mr Esten told Mr Akimkulov that his marriage to Ms Novikova was fake and that he was not the father of Ms Novikova’s child, but that Mr Aliyev was.
- Between approximately 5 – 8 June 2004, Mr Akimkulov saw Mr Esten severely beat Ms Novikova for standing on the balcony of the Claimant’s Apartment.
- On or about 13 June 2004 Mr Esten called the Claimant’s mobile telephone to wish him happy birthday. The Claimant visited the Claimant’s Apartment around midday. Whilst at the Claimant’s Apartment, Mr Akimkulov apologised to the Claimant for not being able to buy him a present. The Claimant replied by saying that was not a problem and said that the biggest problem of his was Ms Novikova.
- On 18 June 2004, Mr Akimkulov’s wife and 2 children arrived back in Beirut and went to the Claimant’s Apartment.
- On 19 June 2004, Mr Akimkulov and his family, and Mr Esten went to the local beach. Ms Novikova stayed at the Claimant’s Apartment. When leaving the Claimant’s Apartment, Mr Akimkulov locked the door and gave the keys to Mr Esten. There were only 3 sets of keys to the Claimant’s Apartment. The Claimant had 1 set of keys, and Mr Esten and Mr Akimkulov had a set each. The door to the Claimant’s Apartment could not be opened from the inside if the door was locked from the outside. Around midday, someone called Mr Esten on his mobile phone. Mr Esten spoke to the caller and then quickly started getting ready to go home and made excuses for returning to the Claimant’s Apartment.
- The Claimant had given Mr Akimkulov his mobile phone when in Beirut. Only 4 people could call the mobile phones that Mr Akimkulov and Mr Esten used whilst in Beirut viz., the Claimant, Mr Koshlyak, Mr Aliyev, and Yerbol Derbisaliyev (the consul of Kazakhstan in Lebanon).
- About 1 hour after Mr Esten left, Mr Akimkulov and his family also left the beach. As he approached the Claimant’s Apartment, Mr Akimkulov saw Ms Novikova’s dead body impaled on steel reinforcement rods protruding from a concrete wall below the balcony of the Claimant’s Apartment.
Events after the death
- Mr Akimkulov went up to the Claimant’s Apartment and found Mr Esten with the police. He spoke to Mr Esten who said that he had time to throw away a bag of rubbish containing medicine. Mr Akimkulov told Mr Esten that there were handcuffs in the cupboard in the kitchen; Mr Esten told him to keep his mouth shut.
- Mr Esten told Mr Akimkulov not to worry and that the Claimant would handle everything. Mr Akimkulov heard the police speaking, in part, in English and heard them say that they doubted it was suicide. Mr Akimkulov himself noted that Ms Novikova’s body was lying approximately 6 – 7 metres away from the building, too far for Ms Novikova to have jumped, that the balcony she was supposed to have jumped from was the dining room balcony, and there was practically no blood in the place were Ms Novikova lay. He considered it unlikely that she had committed suicide.
- Later that same day, 19 June 2004 Mr Esten and Mr Akimkulov were taken to the police station. Mr Esten was interrogated by police in Beirut in relation to Ms Novikova’s death. Mr Esten did not speak Arabic. The Claimant (or his brother) acted as Mr Esten’s translator and the interview was also conducted in the presence of the consul of Kazakhstan in Lebanon, Mr Yerbol Derbisaliyev. There was no diplomatic representative of Ms. Novikova’s country of citizenship, Uzbekistan.
- During his interview, Mr Esten claimed that Ms Novikova suffered from “psychic problems” and he did not wish to prosecute anyone. He indicated that he did not want the police to investigate Ms Novikova’s death. He said that he thought that Ms Novikova had committed suicide. He also stated that she did not have any friends. Mr Esten said that he wanted to receive the Ms Novikova’s body for the purpose of sending it to Kazakhstan to be buried. Mr Esten claimed that he was at the beach at the time Ms Novikova fell from the Claimant’s Apartment.
- Mr Esten was told that he would be left under investigation.
- Whilst at the police station Mr Akimkulov saw the Claimant looking into the office. After Mr Akimkulov and Mr Esten were released, Mr Akimkulov saw Mr Koshlyak speaking to Mr Esten. Mr Koshlyak arrived in the Claimant’s car, a Nissan X-Trail. Mr Koshlyak told Mr Akimkulov that he had warned Mr Akimkulov that something could have happened to Ms Novikova and that he was working on settling the matter.
- At the time, Mr Akimkulov assumed that Mr Esten would be arrested but later understood that “a reputable high ranking individual from Lebanon” got involved and facilitated Mr Esten’s release.
- Upon returning from the police station, the concierge told Messrs Esten and Akimkulov that they had had a guest in the Claimant’s Apartment, explaining in English that he was Russian with green eyes. Mr Akimkulov believed that this was Mr Koshlyak.
- When they got back to the Claimant’s Apartment, Mr Koshylak was not there. Mr Akimkulov received a call on his mobile phone from Mr Aliyev who, it transpired, was downstairs. Mr Akimkulov explained to Mr Aliyev how shocked he was by what had happened. He also said that he believed that Ms Novikova could not have fallen from the balcony herself due to the distance of the body from the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Aliyev told Mr Akimkulov to shove his opinion up his backside and that everything he saw was an optical illusion. Mr Aliyev enquired about the state of the Claimant’s Apartment. Mr Akimkulov explained that the handcuffs were still in the kitchen cupboard and was told to go and fetch them. Messrs Akimkulov and Aliyev subsequently went for a walk along the beach and the handcuffs were thrown into the sea.
- On 19 June 2004, Dr Assem Hamad Haidar examined Ms Novikova’s body and completed a medical report. Dr Haidar recorded numerous severe injuries including a skull fracture, a fracture in the right forearm, a fracture in the pelvis, a fracture in the left femur, and a fracture in the left leg, as well as puncture wounds. Dr Haidar concluded that Ms Novikova had sustained severe internal and external bleeding as a result of the fall and this led cardiac and brain suspension and then immediate death at about 2–3 pm on 19 June 2004. Dr Haidar reported that he could not be certain that Ms Novikova had committed suicide but speculated that most likely she did “due to the fact that she suffers psychic problems”. The only source for Dr Haidar’s assertion that Ms Novikova suffered “psychic problems” was the statement given by Mr Esten to the police when interviewed.
- There is no record that the Lebanese authorities performed an autopsy of Ms Novikova’s body.
- On or about 20 June 2004, the Beirut police interviewed a beach worker and employee at the Copacabana, Hatem Anise Chaaban. Mr Chaaban had seen Mr Esten at the Copacabana beach on 19 June 2004. He told the police that he often saw Mr Esten at the beach but that he was always alone, without any accompanying female.
- On 20 June 2004, Mr Esten received the corpse of Ms Novikova from the Lebanese authorities. Mr Esten asked for his passport and residence card to be returned so that he could travel to Kazakhstan to participate in the burial of Ms Novikova. The Lebanese authorities agreed to rush the transportation of the corpse on condition that the consul of Kazakhstan, Mr Yerbol Derbissalyev undertook to bring Mr Esten before the authorities on request and that Mr Esten returned to Beirut after 5 days. On 21 June 2004, the Beirut police interviewed the concierge of Mahlab Building, Mohamed Ahmad El ghaeb Fadl El Mawla. The concierge stated, amongst other things, that Ms Novikova rarely left the Claimant’s Apartment. He also told the police that another man had also resided in the Claimant’s Apartment for about 4 months while Mr Esten was away. There was no evidence to suggest that the police inspected the Torture Room in the Claimant’s Apartment, even though the police did take photos of the balcony from the inside of the Claimant’s Apartment.
- On 21 June 2004 a death certificate was issued for Ms Novikova. The certificate recorded, amongst other things, that Ms Novikova died at 2:30pm on 19 June 2004, in Choueifat- Aley, and that the death “maybe suicide – falling from a high place”.
- On 22 June 2004, Dr Elias Sayegh issued a Certificate of Embalming by which he attested that he had embalmed the body of Ms Novikova and that there was no legal objection to repatriating the body to her country.
- On 22 June 2004, only 3 days after Ms Novikova’s death instead of the customary 5 days, the Quarantine Service of Ministry of Public Health of the Lebanese Republic issued a Permit to Repatriate Coffins. By this permit permission was given to repatriate the body of Ms Novikova from the Lebanese territories to Uzbekistan. Ms Novikova had been born in Uzbekistan and her mother lived there in June 2004. Ms Novikova had no known relatives in Kazakhstan.
- On 22 June 2004, and as arranged by the former presidential guard, Mr Koshlyak, Ms Novikova’s body was secretly taken in a private plane from Beirut to Kazakhstan and buried in an abandoned cemetery in the remote region of Otar in the south of Kazakhstan. Ms Novikova’s body was taken on charter flight No 6005/6006, aircraft TU-134, number 65610, serviced by Atyrau Aue Zholy Airlines from Beirut to Taraz on 22 June 2004. The flight was chartered by Mr Aliyev. There were 7 passengers on board the flight in addition to Ms Novikova’s body viz., Mr Akimkulov, Balzhan Akimkulov, Gabiden Akimkulov, Ernar Akimkulov, Mr Koshlyak, Mr Esten and Luiza Esten (Ms Novikova’s daughter). The exit form on this date described Mr Esten at ‘Kazakhstan Consul Assistant’.
- Ms Novikova’s parents and relatives were not told about her death or her place of burial. Someone in possession of Ms Novikova’s phone continued to communicate with Ms. Novikova’s mother by text messaging for some time after the death, posing as Ms Novikova
- Approximately 10 days after the burial of Ms Novikova Mr Akimkulov returned to Vienna. Whilst in Vienna, Mr Aliyev asked Mr Akimkulov what he knew about Ms Novikova. Mr Akimkulov said that he knew that Ms Novikova’s daughter was Mr Aliyev’s daughter. Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak humiliated and tortured Mr Akimkulov. Mr Aliyev shaved Mr Akimkulov’s hair, beat him up and used an electric shocker. Mr Akimkulov suffered a broken tooth and broken ribs. Mr Aliyev also gave ketonal to Mr Akimkulov.
- On 12 May 2005, Mr Esten died in a car accident in Vienna in unknown circumstances.
- In May 2007, Mr Akimkulov told his brother, Nurlan, everything he knew because he feared that he would be killed by Mr Aliyev and/ or Mr Koshlyak, as they had previously threatened to do.
- On 26 May 2007, Interpol Astana authorities issued a “very urgent” request to Interpol Beirut asking for information on Claimant on suspicion of belonging to an organized criminal group that engaged in kidnapping, extortion, theft, and other crimes. Interpol subsequently issued a Red Notice on the Claimant.
- On 28 May 2007, Kazakhstan issued an arrest warrant for Mr Aliyev for running an organised crime network, and dismissed him as ambassador to Austria.
- From at least May 2007, the Kazakhstan authorities began investigating Mr Aliyev’s activities and took action to stop Mr Aliyev’s criminal activity in Kazakhstan. Further, an extradition request was filed with Austria.
- In 2007, Ms Novikova’s mother (Tatiana Medvedeva), filed a claim in respect of Ms Novikova’s disappearance; at this time, she did not know that her daughter was dead. In the course of the subsequent investigations, the Kazakh Interior Ministry confirmed that a body found in a secret grave in southern Kazakhstan was that of Ms Novikova. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan, an examination of Ms Novikova’s exhumed remains by medical and forensic experts in Kazakhstan suggested that she had died earlier and that she had been murdered followed by a staged suicide. Ms Novikova was subsequently reburied in a cemetery outside Almaty.
- In June 2007, the Claimant’s Kazakhstani citizenship was revoked and his civil and diplomatic passports were annulled.
- In July and August 2007, Astana Interpol made a number of requests of the Lebanese authorities for information about the death of Ms Novikova which included specific requests about (a) the movements of Messrs Koshylak, Akimkulov, Aliyev and Esten all of whom were the subject of Interpol Red Notices and (b) the identity of the holder of mobile phone used by Ms Novikova and the Claimant.
- On or about 20 August 2007, Nassib Jack Chedid, lawyer and agent for CCC company, contacted the Beirut police and declared that he had information about the murder of Ms Novikova. He stated that he held a power of attorney for Said Toufic El Khoury, general manager of CCC. Mr Chedid gave evidence to the Beirut police. He stated amongst other things that Ms Novikova came to Lebanon in 2003 with her husband accompanied by the Claimant, and they resided in an apartment in the CCC building. He also stated that he did not have any information about how she fell down, why she fell down, who was present at the time nor did he know whether it was suicide or not. He also said that CCC had nothing to do with her death.
- Following a request for information dated 22 August 2007, the Beirut police noted that, whilst Mr Esten was supposed to have been kept under investigation for 5 days after the death, he did not return to the police station. The police noted that the record was sealed afterwards.
- Following discussions between the police and the public prosecutor, Judge Myassar Chokr, the judge ordered that the police should disregard waiting for any response in respect of the movements of the individuals subject to the Interpol Red Notices and to disregard the response from MTC, the mobile phone company, about the owners of the mobile phone numbers.
- On or about 29 August 2007, an analysis of the DNA of Anastasia’s daughter, Luiza, found that she was not the daughter of Mr Esten.
- The report also suggested that the initial investigation by the Lebanese Police into the death of Ms Novikova was extremely superficial as a result of the intervention of the Claimant and his influence in Lebanon.
- As a result of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Ms Novikova’s death and at the request of Ms Novikova’s mother (Tatiana Medvedeva), the prosecuting authorities in Kazakhstan and Austria initiated separate criminal investigations into and/ or proceedings in relation to Ms Novikova’s death with the assistance of Interpol.
- In January and March 2008, Mr Aliyev was sentenced in absentia to 40 years in prison for various crimes including kidnap, document forgery, seizure of power through violence, formulation and heading of an organised criminal group, the illegal acquisition and disclosure of state secrets, embezzlement of property, the illegal trafficking of arms, ammunition and explosives, the stealing of ammunition and explosives and abuse of power. He was sentenced in absentia having fled Kazakhstan.
- Insofar as the economic crimes were concerned, the investigation concluded that Mr Aliyev used a group of Lebanese companies, the majority of which were registered in the name of the Claimant, to launder criminal income received in Kazakhstan by tax evasion or the violation of currency regulations. The result was that millions of US dollars were funnelled to the accounts of the Lebanese companies, never to be repaid. As a result of investigations into his economic crimes, various companies registered to the Claimant and his brother Devincci Hourani, and their agents, were identified and investigated (including Global Trading Company, Interasia SAT S.A.L., Imperial Sugar Co, Ruby Rose Agricole LLC, Kokshetau Avia LLC, Kulandy Energy Corporation LLC, Caratube International Oil Company LLC, Universal Oilfield Company LLC, Light House LLC, Health Care LLC, Auto Rosa LLC, Pharm Industry LLC and Noel LLC). On 29 July 2009, the Lebanese Directorate General of Security carried out an investigation into and reported on the petition to expand the investigation into the death of Ms Novikova. The record was sealed on 6 November 2009.
- On 11 September 2009, the lawyer representing Ms Novikova’s mother gave a deposition to the Beirut police. He requested that the case be reopened in order to identify the real cause of death, and the identities of those responsible.
- On 22 September 2009, Interpol Lyon confirmed to Interpol Beirut that the Red Notice on the Claimant was “still valid”.
- In or around November 2009, in the course of their investigations, the Beirut police made enquiries of residents of the Mahlab building. The police reported that residents had stated that Ms Novikova was rarely seen outside the Claimant’s Apartment. The police also reported that they had spoken to a resident of the neighbouring Claimant’s Apartment block, Vivianne Ali El Sabeh. She told police that, in 2004, she used to see Ms Novikova walking up and down the balcony of the Claimant’s Apartment and she recalled one incident where she was standing on the balcony edge, looking over, as if she was looking for an escape.
- On 15 October 2009, Mr Akimkulov was interviewed by Police Lieutenant Colonel Grigoriyev, Senior Investigator of the Internal Affairs Agencies of Operational-Investigations Group of Investigative Committee of the Department of Internal Affairs. During the course of that interview, Mr Akimkulov stated, amongst other things, that:
“Later during conversation with Danyer I learned that being in Beirut, Daniyar supports Aliyev R.M.’s sister – Gulshat, who was married to Isaam Horani and lived in Beirut, and worked in the oil company owned by I. Horani.”
“The intimate connection between the Arab and Anastasia Novikova became known to Isaam Horani, who informed Aliyev R.M. At the end of January 2004, he had a serious quarrel with A. Novikova. At that time Anastasia had already given birth to daughter, and as a punishment for Anastasia’s cheating on him with an Arab Aliyev R.M. gave an order and her born girl was taken away from her and handed to the family of Isaam Horani to be raised there, and not allowing Anastasia to the child. Isaam Horani’s sister took the daughter of A. Novikov, her name is Hiam”.
“I learned from Novikova Anastasia that in January 2004, Aliyv R. and Koshylak V severly beaten her for infidelity, viz her hands tied to the hooks, which were hammered into the wall in the bedroom at the outstretched hands, have crucified her and began beating her body. Koshylak V. beat her with his fists and feet, and Aliyev R.M. whipped her. After that, Novikova A. had 2 broken ribs, visible bruses all over her body. From beatings and fear, A. Novikova wet her pants while standing tied to the wall”.
“A. Novikova told me that after the beatings, R. Aliyev personally injected her with aesthetic shots “ketonal”.
“During one of Aliyev’s visits to Beirut when he came as D. Esten was arrested in the nightclub by Beirut policeman for keeping the drug ‘anasha’ in March 2004. R.M. Aliyev and Isaam Horani helped him adjust this matter”.
“As for Isaam Horani, I have known that at that time he lived in Beirut, since R.S. Aliyev left Vienna, there he had the main office of the firm “CCC”, and in Almaty he had a branch office, which was located upper of the French house along the Furmanov Street. It was not only one of his firms, moreover, as I know, on the 6th floor of the Republic avenue No.13, there was the office of “Koshetav Airlines”, which is also owned by I. Horani”.
“I received my cell phone from Isaam Horani after my arrival to Beirut”.
“… I and Daniyer were not allowed to use out coming calls, we were only allowed to accept incoming calls, and only 3 persons could call this phone – Aliyev R.M., Koshylak V., and Isaam Horani.”
“Also, after Esten Daniyar’s returning to to Almaty, the driver of Isaam Horani brought a national dress for Novikova A. and took a picture of herself and together with Esten Daniyar…After this event, I remember that together with Novikova A., D. Esten on car that was operated by an Arab we went to the “CCC” office, and in the premises of that company on the sixth floor there the Kazakh embassy in Lebanon who’s employee is Derbisaliyev Erbol. As I understand later we came to register some documents”.
“On 13 June 2004, Isaam Horani had a birthday…I apologized to Isaam Horani because we could not give him a present, and he said this was not a problem for him. At the same time, Isaam Horani said that the biggest problem of his is, and he pointed in the direction of Novikova A.”
“In this regard, I realise that he can arrest me and Esten D., to what he told me not to worry, Isaam Horani will handle everything, he was telling me this with certain confidence”.
“After we were taken to the police station, I assumed that Daniyar would be arrested, but I understood form the conversation later on, in the matter got involved a reputable high-ranking individual from Lebanon, who facilitated Daniyar’s release from the police.”
“While in the station, I saw that Isaam Horani was looking into the office. When we left the station, Esten Daniyar was very happy, expressing it emotionally, he exclaimed with joy”.
“Vadim Koshylak… to the station he arrived in the car of Isaam Horani”.
“There were only 3 sets of keys from the Claimant’s Apartment where we lived, I had one, Esten Daniyar had the second, Isaam Horani had the third set.”
“All flights taken by Aliyev R.M., as far as I know, were charter flights performed by “Atyrau Auye Joly” Airlines, he does not fly on regular planes. Isaam Horani, Derbisalityev Erbol or Koshlyak, if he was there, would pick up Aliyev R.M in Beirut”.
- On 7 November 2009, Leonid Konstantinovich Fomaidi was interviewed by the Chief Investigator of the Internal Affairs Agencies of Investigative Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakahstan, police colonel, A. Sh. Jaksybayev. During the course of that interview Mr Fomaidi stated, amongst other things, that:
“”As per the instruction of Koshlyak V., I started helping him, namely, in the backroom of the Claimant’s Apartment, the bedroom, to put foam mattresses against the balcony door and window…so that neither sound nor light would come through”
“… Issam Horani brought us at the Claimant’s Apartment an electric drill, with which, at the instruction of Koshlyak V., I drilled two holes in the walls, which were located opposite each other at approximately a 100 cm level, in which Koshlyak V. put brackets in the form of closed rings, also brought by Issam Horani together with the drill”.“On the same day, roughly 6-7pm, … Issam Horani brought to the Claimant’s Apartment Novikova Anastasia, whom I previously knew, I saw a small child in her hands. I knew that Novikova A. was a mistress of Aliyev R. … I greeted Anastasia, but I did not talk to her because Issam Horani took her with the child to the room right away, where we earlier had put mattresses, brackets.”
“Towards the morning, Aliyev R. came out of the room, he came up to me and sat on the sofa, where I fell asleep while sitting. Sitting down, he began to tell me that Novikova started to date, secretly from him, some kind of Arab, at that he said: “Silly woman, asserts that the child is from me”. I told him that this matter can be verified, to what Aliyev R. said that this matter is already being dealt with by Issam Horani, who will test the child’s and his DNA in the blood center”.
“Towards the morning, between 7 and 8 am, Issam Horani came to the Claimant’s Apartment, he brought with him food, together with him was an Asian woman, as I understood a Filipino, who took the daughter of Novikova A and, as I understood, left with the driver”.
“I saw Novikova A. in the room, she was in the alcove, on her knees, her face towards the camera, sitting with her left arm raised upward, handcuffed to the bracket in the wall. On the second, right hand of Novikova, I also saw a handcuff. In addition, Anastasia did not have hair on her head, it was cut off and lying next to her.”
“Around lunch time, I woke up to the doorbell ringing. I opened the door. I. Horani came, in his hands he had a bowl of pilaf, he went to the dining room and started to watch TV. After I set the table, from the room, where Anastasia was handcuffed, came out Koshlyak V. and Aliyev R, sat at the table and all at once they sat at the table. At the table, Aliyev R started to tell that he intends to give Novikova Anastasia pills “methandrostenolone”, so that she would gain weight, look ugly and no one would need her”
“In the afternoon, Aliyev R instructed me to clean the room, where Novikova A. was handcuffed. When I entered the room, in the place where I saw Anastasia through the monitor, on the floor, I saw the cut off hair of Novikova A., from both sides dark handcuffs were hanging over the brackets, on the floor by the bed, were lying two disposable syringes with needles, I did not see ampoules for medicine. The rug, where Novikova A. sat was wet, it smelled like urine.”
“Since that time, Anastasia was in the kitchen when I cooked food, she learned how to cook. We sat together at the table, but at the same time she was not allowed to sit down, she stood by the table and did what Aliyev R asked her to do, who offered to take a banana and show how she performed “oral sex” on the Arab, which whom she cheated on him. Novikova A. obeyed, she performed all his order. At which time, Koshlyak V was laughing.
“…Aliyev R suggested that I go and demean A. Novikova by “bonking her head” and telling her to move faster.”
“After 4 days, Esten Daniyar arrived to Beirut. I think Isaam Horani brought him, upon his arrival Daniyar stated with us in the Claimant’s Apartment. He started getting orders from R. Aliyev to demean and to punch A. Novikova, he was also ordered to assault her through normal and abnormal (oral sex) intercourse in the room where she was tormented. … During that time, R Aliyev and V Koshlyak were constantly in the Claimant’s Apartment, only I. Horani was going back and forth”.
- On 23 November 2009, the Palestinian Authority issued the Claimant a diplomatic passport, number A0042718.
- In 2010, Mr Aliyev, to escape extradition, moved to Malta with his new wife, Elnara Shoraz. Mr Aliyev adopted her surname and thereafter called himself “Rakhat Shoraz”.
- On 15 March 2010, the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan produced a report into the activities of Mr Aliyev, including his involvement in the death of Ms Novikova and the economic crimes committed by Mr Aliyev and his accomplices, including the Claimant. The report stated that, amongst other things, Mr Aliyev used a group of Lebanese companies, registered in the name of the Claimant and his associates (including in the case of Interasia SAT S.A.L. and Imperial Sugar Co, Nassib Chedid, the lawyer for CCC who had given evidence to the Beirut police, as referred to above), to launder the criminal income received in Kazakhstan by evasion or violation of the currency regulations.
- On 22 December 2011, the Austrian Public Prosecutor’s Office in Vienna sent a request to the competent authority in Malta (where Mr Aliyev was then residing) as part of its investigation against Mr Aliyev and Mr Koshlyak on charges of murder and/or instigation to commit murder, and other crimes in relation to the death of Ms Novikova. The suspicion that a criminal act had taken place was stated to be based on information provided by Ms Novikova’s parents and the interrogation of witnesses, in particular the statements of Mr Fomaidi and Mr Akimkulov referred to above. This document included a request that Mr Aliyev be interrogated as an accused with regard to the facts of the case.
- Subsequently, on 16 February 2012, Mr Aliyev (whilst residing in Malta) gave evidence in response to the letter of request from the Public Prosecutors Office, Vienna. During his evidence, he sought to deny any involvement in the death of Ms Noivikova. His evidence records the fact that he suggested to Mr Esten that he should go to live in Lebanon even though Mr Esten did not speak Arabic; “moreover my brother in law is [there]…there were possibilities to help there”. Insofar as his relationship with the Claimant was concerned, Mr Aliyev confirmed that he had business dealings with him and that they were very close, stating that “we were like brothers. We had a good relationship”.
- In April 2012, Rustam Ibragimov confessed to the murder of the prominent Kazak politician Altynbek Sarsenbayev who was shot dead in February 2006. Mr Ibragimov stated that he ordered to carry out the murder by Mr Aliyev.
- On 10 July 2012, the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing on “Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment“. According to testimony provided to that hearing, the Claimant and his brother, Devincci, were involved in corrupt business dealings with the Palestinian Authority’s leadership. More particularly, it was stated that the Hourani brothers engaged in business with Yasser Abbas (the multi-millionaire businessman and son of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President) by obtaining concessions for 3 oil blocks in Sudan on behalf of Caratube International Oil Inc, a company said to be owned by Devincci Hourani. Such ventures breached US sanctions which prohibited US citizens such as Devincci Hourani undertaking business in Sudan. The same witness also testified that both the Claimant and Devincci Hourani used Palestinian diplomatic passports granted by the Palestinian Authority so as to enable them to travel with diplomatic immunity, notwithstanding the fact that neither were diplomats.
- On 24 July 2012 the Republic of Kazakhstan and Ms Medvedeva brought legal proceedings in Lebanon against Mr Aliyev and all three Hourani brothers, i.e. the Claimant, Hossam Hourani and Devincci Hourani (“the Accused“), for the murder of Ms Novikova and for a further and proper investigation into her death.
- The Accused unsuccessfully tried to have the complaint against them dismissed as follows:
- In a Decision on Motions dated 18 March 2013 the First Examining Magistrate in Mount Lebanon decided that:
- The formal motions issued by the Accused in February 2013 for the dismissal of the complaint be dismissed; and
- The investigation be resumed.
- In a Decision on Motions dated 18 March 2013 the First Examining Magistrate in Mount Lebanon decided that:
(“Decision dated 18 March 2013”)
- This decision was successfully appealed on 4 April 2013 by the Accused to the Accusation Chamber of Mount Lebanon, which ordered that:
- The Decision dated 18 March 2013 be annulled; and
- The prosecution of the Accused be declared inadmissible.
(“Decision dated 4 April 2013”)
- Ms Novikova’s mother and the Republic of Kazakhstan successfully appealed to the Third Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. In a decision dated 23 May 2013, it ordered that:
105.1 The Decision dated 4 April 2013 be repealed and annulled;
105.2 The Decision dated 18 March 2013 be ratified.
- On 9 November 2013, Mr. Giorgi Novikov (the father of Ms Novikova who lived in Germany) brought further legal proceedings against Mr Aliyev and his accomplices for various crimes (including intentional murder and deprivation of freedom with acts of torture), together with a request to join the legal proceedings brought by Ms Novikova’s mother and the Republic of Kazakhstan.
- On 9 April 2014, the judge made an order for the joinder of the legal proceedings of Ms Novikova’s father to those brought by her mother and the Republic of Kazakhstan.
- The judge rejected an application by the Accused against Ms Novikova’s father’s claim, and decided that the investigations against them should proceed.
- Following an appeal by the Accused, the decision of the judge was upheld.
- On 5 June 2014, Mr Aliyev was arrested in Vienna, Austria on suspicion of the murder of Zholda Temiraliev and Abyar Khasenov, two Kazakh bankers who were executives of Nurbank. Kazakh ex-secret service chief Alnur Mussayev and former presidential guard Mr Koshlyak stood accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering the two Kazakh bankers in 2007 in collusion with Mr Aliyev. A third person, Abilmazhan Gillmov who was the CEO of Nurbank, provided evidence that he and the others had been beaten and detained at gunpoint until they agreed to sign over their interests in the bank for well below market value. Mr Gillmov was released but Mr Temiraliev and Mr Khasenov were not. Their bodies were found 4 years later in 2011 in a metal drum in a rubbish dump. An examination of their bodies showed that they had been tortured.
- On 24 February 2015, Mr Aliyev died in Josefstadt Prisin in Vienna whilst awaiting trial for murder. Mr Aliyev is thought by the Austrian authorities to have committed suicide.
- On Friday 10 July 2015, Mr Koshlyak was found guilty of the kidnap of the two Kazakh bankers and sentenced to two years in jail. Mr Koshlyak was acquitted of all murder charges. Austrian prosecutors have indicated that they intend to appeal against the decision.
The Online Publications
- Save that it is denied (a) that the Online Publications were established by and/or operated under the control of the First, Second, Third and/or Fourth Defendants; and (b) that the RakhhatAliyev.com website was established by and/or operated under the control of the Fifth Defendant, paragraph 4 is admitted. For the avoidance of doubt it is not admitted, if it is the Claimant’s case that the material on the websites and social media sites complained of has been published within the jurisdiction. The Claimant is put to strict proof of the same.
- As to paragraph 5:
- It is admitted and averred that on 19 June 2014 a demonstration / vigil took place outside the Claimant’s family home in remembrance of the tenth anniversary of the death of Anastasiya Novikova. The event lasted less than three minutes. None of the Defendants participated in the demonstration or were present at the demonstration on 19 June 2014.
- It is admitted that on 16 November 2014 a demonstration took place in or near Hyde Park and outside the Lebanese Embassy. Both events lasted less than three minutes at each site. None of the Defendants participated in the demonstrations. Save for the Second Defendant (who was present but did not participate), and the Fifth Defendant (who was present to coordinate and take videos), the Defendants were not present at the demonstrations on 16 November 2014. Save as aforesaid paragraph 5 is not admitted.
- Paragraph 6 is admitted. It is averred that the Stickers have appeared elsewhere, including in other parts of London, in Vienna, Amsterdam and the United States. The Online Publications, the Events and the Stickers were part of a legitimate campaign to publicise and draw attention to the mysterious and tragic circumstances in which Anastasiya Novikova died, and the culpability of Rakhat Aliyev and the Claimant for her death.
The Online Publications
- Save that it is not admitted that the words and images complained of were defamatory of the Claimant, paragraph 7 is admitted. For the avoidance of doubt it is not admitted, if it is the Claimant’s case, that the words and images complained of have been published within the jurisdiction. The Claimant is put to strict proof of the same.
- As to paragraph 8:
- The apparent claim for damages for defamation pleaded in paragraph 8 and alleged to arise out of the Events was not included in the Claimant’s claim form, either in it is original or amended form.
- The Claimant has failed to set out, as he must, his case as to whom the statements complained of were published. For the avoidance of doubt it is not admitted that the words and images complained of were published and the Claimant is put to strict proof of the same.
- The Claimant has failed to plead that the statements complained of caused or were likely to cause serious harm to his reputation. The Claimant is put to strict proof of the same.
- The Claimant has failed to distinguish, as he must, between his apparent claim for libel and his apparent claim for slander.
- The Claimant has failed to plead, as he must, which, if any, of the Defendants he alleges was responsible for publication of the matters pleaded in paragraph 8.
- The Claimant’s pleaded claim for defamation arising out of the alleged Events therefore discloses no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim and ought to be struck out.
- Without prejudice to the foregoing, the Defendants plead as follows to paragraphs 8.1 and 8.2.
- It is admitted that at the vigil held on 19 June 2014 protestors:
- held / carried placards bearing images of Rakhat Aliyev, the Claimant and his brother, Devincci Hourani, and the word “MURDERER”; and
- held / carried placards and a large banner bearing the words “Justice for Novikova”.
- Save as aforesaid paragraph 8.1 is not admitted.
- It is admitted that at the demonstration held on 16 November 2014 protestors:
- held carried placards bearing images of Rakhat Aliyev, the Claimant and his brother Devincci Hourani, and the word “MURDERER”;
- held / carried placards and large banners bearing the words “Justice for Novikova”;
- chanted the words “Justice for Novikova” and “get the murderers out of London”; and
- read out a statement including the words set out at paragraph8.2.4
- Save as aforesaid paragraph 8.2 is not admitted. The Claimant has failed to plead, as he must, his case as to whom the statements complained of were published. For the avoidance of doubt it is not admitted that the words complained of were published and the Claimant is put to strict proof of the same. The Defendants reserve the right to plead further should the Claimant provide proper particulars of his asserted claim for defamation against the Defendants arising out of the Events
- Save for the word “blood”, which is not admitted, the description of the Stickers in paragraph 9 is admitted.
- In relation to the Stickers:
- The Claimant has not pleaded that the Stickers were defamatory of him. In the absence of a proper pleading in defamation, the Defendants proceed on the assumption that the Claimant is not bringing a claim for damages for defamation arising out of the posting of the Stickers;
- The Claimant has not pleaded which, if any of the Defendants, he asserts were responsible for posting the Stickers.
- It is denied that the words and images complained of bore the meanings pleaded.
The Defendant’s liability for the Campaign
- Paragraph 11 is denied because the various facts and matters alleged in paragraphs 11.1–11.19 do not demonstrate that Defendants are liable (in whatever sense that word is used), either individually or jointly, for the Campaign. It is denied that such liability can properly be inferred from the alleged facts and matters. For the avoidance of doubt, it is denied that the Defendants are liable to the Claimant in defamation and/or harassment.
- Without prejudice to the foregoing, the Defendants plead to paragraphs 11.1–11.19 as follows.
- The first sentence of paragraph 11.1 is denied. Ms Blair’s married name was Allison Vanover. She is divorced and no longer goes by that name, although some historic records will still refer to her as Ms Vanover. The second sentence of paragraph 11.1 is denied because the Third Defendant is not responsible for the website Justice for Novikova and did not publish and is not responsible for any of the content on that website.
- The first sentence of paragraph 11.2 is denied. The Fourth Defendant did not publish and is not responsible for any of the content on the website Justice for Novikova. It is admitted that the Fifth Defendant paid for the registration and hosting of the Justice for Novikova website, and for the registration of “rakhatdidit.com”, using a credit card that was in his name. It is denied that the said credit card was registered to the Fourth Defendant. It is denied that the Third Defendant authorised the Fifth Defendant to use the said credit card. The third and fourth sentences of paragraph 11.2 are admitted.
- It is denied that the IP address pleaded “belongs to” the Fourth and/or Fifth Defendant. It is denied that the Third and/or Fourth Defendants was/were responsible for any of the content on the website Justice for Novikova.
- It is admitted that the Rakhat Aliyev Facebook page was administered from the same IP address as that pleaded in paragraph 11.3. It is denied, if it is the Claimant’s case, that the Third Defendant administered the Rakhat Aliyev Facebook page on the occasions set out in paragraph 11.4 or at all. It is denied that the Third and/or Fourth Defendants was/were responsible for any of the content on the Rakhat Aliyev Facebook page.
- Paragraph 11.5 is admitted.
- Paragraph 11.6 is not admitted.
- Paragraph 11.6.1 is admitted.
- Paragraph 11.6.2 is denied because the format of the two websites is different.
- Paragraph 11.6.3 is denied because the graphic design of the two websites is different.
- Save that it is admitted that the content of the two websites is similar, it is denied that is a proper basis on which to draw the inference pleaded in paragraph 11.6.
- Save that paragraphs 11.7.1, 11.7.2 and 11.7.3 are admitted, it is denied that this is proper basis on which to draw the inference pleaded in paragraph 11.7.
- It is denied that the matters pleaded in paragraph 11.8 are a proper basis from which to draw the inference pleaded.
- Paragraph 11.9 is not admitted.
- As to paragraph 11.10:
- It is denied that the First, Second, Third and/or Fourth Defendants published or caused or authorised the publication of the words and images complained of in paragraphs 7 and 8.
- The second sentence of paragraph 11.10 is noted.
- The third sentence of paragraph 11.10 is noted.
- Paragraph 11.11 is denied by the First, Second, Third and Fourth Defendants because none of them are responsible for the operation of the other social media accounts complained of. The Fifth Defendant admits paragraph 11.11.
- As to paragraph 11.12:
- It is not admitted that the demonstration / vigil held on 19 June 2014 and the demonstration held on 16 November 2014 were fake;
- It is denied that the demonstrations held on 19 June 2014 and 16 November 2014 were “orchestrated” by the First and Second Defendant.
- It is admitted that the First and Second Defendant were involved in organising the demonstration / vigil held on 19 June 2014.
- It is denied that the First Defendant was involved in organising the demonstration held on 16 November 2014.
- It is admitted that the Second Defendant was involved in organising the demonstration held on 16 November 2014.
- It is admitted and averred that the vigil and demonstration were orchestrated / organised by a person or person using the pseudonym Melissa Van Buren.
- It is admitted that the Fifth Defendant used the pseudonym Melissa Van Buren in organising the Events. It is admitted that the Fifth Defendant sent emails from the email address pleaded in paragraph 11.12.
- The content of the emails pleaded in paragraphs 11.12.1 – 11.12.4 is admitted, save that it is denied that the candlelight vigil which was held was “fake,” and that it occurred outside the Claimant’s home.
- In or about May 2014, the Second Defendant was asked to gather people in London to protest in relation to the activities of a former Kazakhstan KGB general, Rakhat Aliyev, at short notice to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Ms Novikova’s death. The Second Defendant then called the First Defendant to see if he could assist. The Second Defendant understood that the target of the demonstration was Rakhat Aliyev. The Second Defendant researched and found Media Gang to organise the demonstration. The First Defendant spoke to Richard Dietrich at Media Gang by telephone and informed him that he needed 30 people that the event would take around only 2 minutes and that Rakhat Aliyev was suspected of murdering his mistress. The First Defendant told Mr Dietrich that it was his understanding that the Lowndes Square location was chosen because there were people friendly to the cause at that site. The posters and banners for the demonstration were shipped to Bill Mountain’s home. He then took the materials to his office and they were then collected from him by Media Gang. Neither the First nor Second Defendant designed or shipped the posters and banners, and did not see them prior to the demonstration.
- At the time of the protest on 19 June 2014, the First and Second Defendants understood that the sole focus of the demonstration was on Rakhat Aliyev. The First and Second Defendants were not aware of the Claimant and did not know that the Claimant’s image was on the placards / banners used at the demonstration.
- In November 2014 the Second Defendant was asked / instructed to arrange a second demonstration near the Lebanese Embassy to encourage the authorities in Beirut to investigate the death of Anastasiya Novikova. The Second Defendant contacted Media Gang and asked them to arrange a demonstration but Media Gang declined.
- The Second Defendant then found participants for the demonstration. Through a family connection, he was put in contact with a lady who had lost her daughter, a young woman in her twenties. This lady was keen to participate in this event as the story of Ms Novikova’s death resonated with her. She brought friends with her to take part in a demonstration on 16 November 2014. The First Defendant was not involved in nor did he participate in the demonstration which took place on 16 November 2014.
- Paragraph 11.13 is denied in relation to the Third and Fourth Defendants because the Third and Fourth Defendants did not give any such instructions to the First and/or Second Defendants. Paragraph 11.13 is admitted by the Fifth Defendant.
- The first sentence of paragraph 11.14 is admitted. The second sentence of paragraph 11.14 is denied.
- Paragraph 11.15 is admitted.
- Save that it is admitted that the First Defendant believed and told Media Gang that a resident of 10 Lowndes Square would be sympathetic to the demonstration, paragraph 11.16 is denied.
- Paragraph 11.17 is denied on behalf of the Third Defendant because the email was not written and/or sent by the Third Defendant. It is admitted that the Fifth Defendant sent the email pleaded at paragraph 11.17.
- Paragraph 11.18 is admitted.
- As to paragraph 11.18A:
- It is admitted and averred that the 19 June 2014 Event was intended to be part of a campaign to highlight and bring attention to the appalling circumstances in which Ms Novikova died and the actions of Rakhat Aliyev and the Claimant in relation to Ms Novikova’s tragic death. It is admitted that it was intended that a recording of the 19 June 2014 Event would be put online. It is denied that the 19 June 2014 was not part of a genuine demonstration / campaign.
- Paragraph 11.18A.1 is denied by the Third and Fourth Defendants. The First, Second and Fifth Defendants admit paragraph 11.18A.1.
- Paragraph 11.18A.2 is admitted.
- Save for the asserted inference is not admitted, paragraph 11.18A3 is admitted.
- Paragraph 11.18A.4 is admitted.
- Paragrpah 11.18A.5 is admitted.
- As to paragraph 11.19:
- It is not admitted that the demonstration / vigil on 19 June 2014 was fake.
- It is denied that that First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Defendants sought to engage Media Gang to organise a further event;
- It is admitted that in November 2014 the Second Defendant contacted Media Gang and asked them to arrange a further demonstration but Media Gang declined.
- It is denied that the Third and Fourth Defendants were responsible for the demonstration which took place on 16 November 2014.
- Paragraph 11.9.1 is denied because that the banners and placards used at the demonstration on 16 November 2014 were not the same banners and placards which had been used at the vigil on 19 June 2014.
- Save that it is admitted that footage from the demonstration on 16 November 2014 was uploaded by the Fifth Defendant to websites and social media it is denied, if it is the Claimant’s case, that the First to Fourth Defendants were responsible for the footage being uploaded.
Publication on a matter of public interest
- If, which is denied, the First and/or Second Defendant published or caused or authorised the publication of the words and images complained of in paragraph 8, the statements complained of were, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest, namely, that those responsible for and/or involved in the death of Anastasiya Novikova should be tried and brought to justice.
- Paragraphs 1 – 112 above are repeated.
- The First and/or Second Defendant reasonably believed that publishing the words and images complained of in paragraph 8 was in the public interest.
- As to paragraph 12:
- It is denied that the Defendants, either individually and/or jointly, pursued a course of conduct.
- It is admitted that the Fifth Defendant was responsible for the Online Publications. It is denied that the First to Fourth Defendants were responsible for the Online Publications.
- The Third and Fourth Defendants had no involvement in and/or responsibility for the Events and posting of the Stickers.
- The First and Second Defendants had no involvement in and/or responsibility for the posting of the Stickers.
- It is denied that the actions of the First and Second Defendants in relation to the Events amounted to a course of conduct.
- The Defendants neither knew nor ought to have known that their conduct amounted to harassment of the Claimant.
- Paragraph 13 is denied because the conduct complained of:
- was not targeted at the Claimant. It was targeted at Rakhat Aliyev;
- was neither likely to nor intended to cause alarm and/or distress to the Claimant; and
- was, in all the circumstances, neither oppressive nor unacceptable. The conduct complained of was reasonable in the particular circumstances.
- It is averred that the Claimant did not witness either of the demonstrations held on 19 June 2014 and 16 November 2014.
- Paragraph 14 is denied.
- Further, and alternatively, if, which is denied, the Defendants or each of them did pursue a course of conduct by reason of the conduct complained of, the pursuit of that course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and/or was, in the particular circumstances, reasonable.
- Paragraphs 1-112 above are repeated.
- The First, Second and Fifth Defendants were exercising their rights to protest and freedom of expression.
- On the basis of what he knew about Rakhat Aliyev, the Claimant and the death of Anastasia Novikova, the Fifth Defendant believed that Ms Novikova had been imprisoned in the Claimant’s Claimant’s Apartment in Beirut, tortured, drugged, beaten and sexually assaulted in the Claimant’s Apartment by Rakhat Aliyev and others and that Claimant was not only aware that these terrible crimes were being committed against Ms Novikova but facilitated them. The Fifth Defendant also believed that on the instructions of Rakhat Aliyev, Ms Novikova had either (a) been murdered in the Claimant’s Apartment and then thrown off the balcony, (b) thrown off the balcony; or (c) caused such psychological and physical damage during her period of imprisonment that she had either committed suicide or had fallen to her death whilst trying to escape from the Claimant’s Apartment. The Fifth Defendant believed that Rakhat Aliyev was responsible for Ms Novikova’s death and that the Claimant was an accomplice to Ms Novikova’s death and/or would have been responsible for her murder under the US felony murder rule.
- The Fifth Defendant believed that it was very much in the public interest and reasonable for these matters to be brought to the attention of the public.
- Paragraph 15 is not admitted.
- As to paragraph 16:
- Paragraph 16.1 is not admitted.
- Paragraph 16.2 is denied. The Campaign was intended to draw attention to the mysterious and tragic death of Anastasiya Novikova on the 10th anniversary, and the culpability of Rakhat Aliyev and the involvement of the Claimant and his brother and seek to bring Rakhat Aliyev to justice for killing Anastasiya Novikova.
- It is denied that the First, Second, Third and Fourth Defendants were involved in and/or responsible for any of the matters pleaded in paragraph 16.3. It is admitted that the campaign was so designed and run by the Fifth Defendant. Save as aforesaid, paragraph 16.3 is not admitted.
- Paragraph 16.4 is denied by the First, Second, Third and Fourth Defendants because they did not carry out the acts alleged. Paragraph 16.4 is admitted by the Fifth Defendant.
- Paragraph 16.5 is denied by the First, Second, Third and Fourth Defendants because they were not responsible for the decision to hold the vigil on 19 June 2014 outside the Claimant’s residence. The first sentence of paragraph 16.5 is admitted by the Fifth Defendant. The final sentence of paragraph 16.5 is not admitted.
- Paragraph 16.6 is not admitted.
- Paragraph 16.7 is not admitted. It is denied, if it is alleged, that the Defendants were in any way responsible for the matters pleaded.
- Paragraph 16.8 is not admitted.
- Paragraph 17 is denied because the First, Second, Third and Fourth Defendants, whether individually or jointly, did not publish and/or cause or permit to be published the statements complained of and do not intend to publish and/or cause or permit to be published the same or similar statements. The Third and Fourth Defendants had no involvement in and/or responsibility for the matters asserted to be part of the Campaign, and have no intention of becoming so involved.
- It is denied that the Defendants perpetrated a course of conduct amounting to harassment of the Claimant and it is denied that the Defendants intend to pursue such a course of conduct.
ANTHONY HUDSON QC
Dated this 23 day of September 2016
STATEMENT OF TRUTH
We/The Defendants believe that the facts stated in this Amended Defence are true.
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On behalf of Psybersolutions LLC
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John Michael Waller
Claim No HQ14D05164
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
B E T W E E N:
ISSAM SALAH HOURANI
- ALASTAIR THOMSON
- BRYAN MCCARTHY
- ALLISON BLAIR
- PSYBERSOLUTIONS LLC
- JOHN MICHAEL WALLER
Mishcon de Reya
London. WC2 6AH
Solicitors for the Defendants