On 12 July 2018, eight MEPs signed an open letter addressed to President Nazarbayev decrying the human rights situation in Kazakhstan. MEPs Jaromir Stetina (Czech Republic, EPP), Petras Austrevicius (Lithuania, ALDE), Tunne Kelam (Estonia, EPP), Wolf Klinz (Germany, ALDE), Ana Gomes (Portugal, S&D), Heidi Hautala (Finland, GREENS), Valentinas Mazuronis (Lithuania, ALDE) and Javier Nart (Spain, ALDE) denounced the reduction of the space for civil liberties, especially the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, pointing out the increasing number of political prisoners.
The MEPs referred to the decision made by a Kazakhstani court on 13 March 2018, which labelled the peaceful opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) “an extremist organisation”. They defined this court ruling as a starting point of a “wave of repression [which] targeted numerous activists and citizens of Kazakhstan”. Indeed, it provides for long prison terms for any support of DCK, which justifies the various arrests of citizens participating in peaceful protests against political prosecution and torture. The MEPs condemned the events of 10 May and 23 June, when citizens were “persecuted for executing their right to peacefully demand an end to political repressions and torture and advocated for free education”.
Many names of current victims of political persecution were mentioned in the letter. Among them: the poet Kenzhebek Abishev and the DCK supporters Almat Zhumagulov, Aset Nurzhaubay, Muratbek Tungishbayev, Zhanara Akhmetova, Akmaral Tobylova, Ablovas Dzhumayev, Arman Alakayev and Bakiza Halelova. Abishev, who affirmed that he had nothing to do with the opposition and who did not even support DCK, has been held in detention since November 2017, and was refused hospitalisation in spite of severe heart pain. Zhumagulov, Nurzhaubay and Dzhumayev are still in detention. The cases of the social network users Sanat Dusov, Ruslan Ginatullin and the journalist Yaroslav Golyshkin are also cited. By listing their names, the MEPs aimed to firmly denounce the political prosecution which is taking place in Kazakhstan.
The European lawmakers expressed their concern over the case of the blogger Tungishbayev, who was arrested on 10 May 2018 in the Kyrgyz Republic and extradited to Kazakhstan as a result of a Kyrgyz court decision, which he did not have the possibility to appeal. “The misuse of INTERPOL” by the Kazakhstani authorities is also addressed in the letter, with the examples of the “oppositionist Mukhtar Ablyazov [as well as] Anatoliy Pogorelov, Tatiana Paraskevich, and the Khrapunov family (Viktor, Leila and Ilyas Khrapunov)”.
Moreover, the “use of brutal practices”, such as “punitive psychiatry” and torture, was also condemned in the open letter. Signatories referred to the case of activist and blogger Ardak Ashim, who was forcibly placed in a mental hospital. In their condemnation of torture, MEPs remarked on the cases of Maks Bokayev, Aron Atabek, Mukhtar Dzhakishev and Iskander Yerimbetov. They not only denounced the use of torture, but also “the lack of investigation into allegations of torture” as well as “the facts of the harassment and political prosecution of lawyers and their relatives”. Indeed, Iskander Yerimbetov is being detained in jail and denied any right to a fair trial in order to put pressure on his sister, lawyer and political refugee Botagoz Jardemalie. Through this letter, the group of MEPs reiterated the importance of implementing UN bodies’ decisions and international organisations demanding the release of Bokayev, Atabek, Dzhakishev,Yerimbetov and Tungishbayev.
While MEPs greeted the release of a few political prisoners – Vladimir Kozlov, Gyuzyal Baydalinova, Talgat Ayan, Amin Eleusinov, Nurbek Kushakbayev and Akmaral Tobylova – they also underlined that there is still a fly in the ointment. Indeed, they remain under restriction of freedom, while Tobylova was only released on bail.
Finally, after having reaffirmed the international commitments Kazakhstan should strictly abide by, such as the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan, the MEPs condemned “any form of repression of civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or freedom of conscience being carried out in Kazakhstan”.
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