On 29 June, MEPs Petras Auštrevičius (Renew), Nieklas Nienass (Greens), Isabel Santos (S&D), Helmuth Scholz (The Left), and Róża Thun und Hohenstein (EPP) have signed an appeal to Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to demand the liberation of political prisoner Bekizhan Mendygaziyev and the end of all acts of political persecution against his brother, human rights activist Barlyk Mendygaziyev.
Barlyk Mendygaziyev, a Kazakhstani entrepreneur and founder of Freedom Kazakhstan Foundation, has long been the object of pressure from the local authorities ever since he started charity campaigns in support of political prisoners, civil society activists and human rights defenders, and advocated for personal sanctions against Kazakhstani high-ranking officials. Mendygaziyev, who lives in the United States, is facing trumped-up charges and the threat of being extradited upon request of the Kazakhstani authorities for his human rights and charity activities.
The Kazakhstani authorities have now started going after his family and associates. On 5 June 2021, Barlyk Mendygaziyev’s brother and associate Bekizhan was sentenced to two months of pretrial detention under fabricated charges of “participation in an organised group or criminal organisation”, “money laundering on a large scale or by a criminal group” and “tax evasion committed by a criminal group or on an especially large scale”. Bekizhan Mendygaziyev has very serious health issues that might critically worsen in prison. Together with him, other family members – Erik, Kalyk, Abay and Arman Mendygaziyev – and associates and contractors – Baurzhan Jussupov, Natalia Dauletiarova, Rinat Batkayev – are facing groundless persecution from the authorities.
In their letter, the MEPs have raised their concerns for the general state of human rights and the rule of law in Kazakhstan, listing the numerous and diverse forms of political persecution against Barlyk Mendygaziyev and calling for an immediate end to all of them: “With this letter, we underline the inadmissible practice of taking Mr Barlyk Mendygaziyev’s associates and relatives as hostages, with the aim to force him to cease his human rights and charitable activities.”
They recalled that the European Parliament already expressed its position on the matter in its urgent resolution of 11 February. The signatories reminded President Tokayev of Kazakhstan’s international obligations: “By prosecuting and harassing Mr Barlyk Mendygaziyev and his circle, the Kazakhstani authorities undermine the mutual trust built on the EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership Cooperation Agreement and the respect of its human rights obligations”.
The letter was also addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mr. Mukhtar Tleuberdi, the Chairperson of the National Security Committee, Mr. Karim Massimov, the Chairperson of the Security Council of Kazakhstan Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan, Mr. Sven-Olov Carlsson Kosmonavtov.
Read more on the human rights situation in Kazakhstan:
- Human rights abuses in Kazakhstan: a need for the EU response – online discussion with Petras Austrevicius (21 May 2021)
- Women’s rights in Kazakhstan. ODF at the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting 2021 (9 March 2021)
- Kazakhstan: the EP’s new resolution urges for sanctions against human rights violators (5 March 2021)
- European Parliament resolution of 11 February 2021 on the human rights situation in Kazakhstan (11 February 2021)
- “Voices of Kazakhstan”, issue #1, #2, #3, #4: pre and post-election review of the human rights situation in Kazakhstan (December 2020 – January 2021)
- Kazakhstan’s Kafkaesque dictatorship: the authorities “playing rodeo” with its critics (24 December 2020)
- Oppositionist Therefore Extremist: Political killings and persecutions of opposition and human rights activists before the parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan (1 December 2020)
- ODF’s report “Servants of the regime: sanction list of persons accountable for gross human rights violations in Kazakhstan (20 October 2020)