Urgent Action: Blogger Detained in Psychiatric Hospital (Kazakhstan: UA 165.20)
November 29, 2020
Blogger and journalist, Aigul Utepova, was forcibly placed in a psychiatric hospital in Nursultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, on 23 November. She has been under house arrest since 17 September charged with “participating in an extremist organization” for her YouTube videos and posts on social media critical of the government. On 19 November a court approved the investigator’s request to place her in a closed psychiatric institution “for observation”. She is a prisoner of conscience, targeted solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression and should be immediately and unconditionally released.
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Gizat Daurenbekovich Nurdauletov Prosecutor General of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Prospekt Mengelik El 14, Kazakhstan
E-mail: [email protected]
I am deeply concerned about the prosecution of journalist and blogger, Aigul Utepova, who was forcibly placed in the Center for Psychiatric Health in Nursultan on 23 November. She has been arbitrarily accused under Article 405 part 2 of the Criminal Code (“participating in an extremist organization”) and has been under house arrest since 17 September 2020. On 19 November, a court in Nursultan ruled that she should be placed in a psychiatric clinic for “observation” for two weeks.
There are no grounds to place Aigul Utepova in the Center for Psychiatric Health. According to Kazakhstani law, a suspect may be sent for psychiatric observation if accused of a crime that carries life imprisonment or the death penalty, or in cases where the suspect’s mental health is in doubt. Aigul Utepova has never been treated for a mental health condition and she explained that she recently had a full medical check after which the doctor confirmed that she was healthy.
Aigul Utepova is being prosecuted for exercising her right to freedom of expression; consequently, she is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally and her prosecution stopped.
I urge you to ensure that Aigul Utepova is released immediately and unconditionally; and instigate a prompt, effective and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Aigul Utepova’s arbitrary prosecution, house arrest, and placement in a psychiatric institution, and ensure that anyone found responsible for violation of her rights is held to account in fair trial proceedings.