08/16/2019

Urgent Action Update: Human Rights Defender Facing Bogus Charges (Kazakhstan: UA 46.19)


Human rights defender Serikzhan Bilash is facing charges of “incitement of social, national, clan, race, class or religious hatred” which carry a penalty of up to seven years in prison. The first hearing was held on 29 July in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital city, and it was decided that the case would be transferred to the city of Almaty. Serikzhan Bilash, who had been under house arrest since 10 March in Nur-Sultan, was transferred on 15 August to his home in Almaty where he will remain under house arrest. Serikzhan Bilash is the leader of the human rights organization Atajurt and is being prosecuted simply for defending the human rights of ethnic Kazakhs in China. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released.

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Nurdauletov Gizat Daurenbekovich
Prosecutor General
Prospect Mengilik, 14
Nur-Sultan
010000 Kazakhstan
Fax: +7 7172 506 402
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @GenProkRK
H.E. Erzhan Kazykhanov
Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
1401 16th St NW, Washington DC 20036
Phone: 202 232 5488
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KazakhEmbassy
Facebook: @KazakhEmbassyDC
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Prosecutor General,

I am writing to you concerning the arbitrary detention and unfounded prosecution of human rights defender Serikzhan Bilash because of his human rights work on behalf of ethnic Kazakhs in the Xinjian Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China. I have learned that Serikzhan Bilash has been charged with Article 174 (1) of the Criminal Code (“incitement of social, national, clan, race, class or religious hatred”), a vaguely worded article which has been used to silence views that are perceived to be critical of the authorities. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. The charges against him are reportedly based on remarks that he made at a meeting with members of the Uighur community in Kazakhstan in early February 2019 at which he stated that “Jihad today is not taking up a gun and fighting in Syria. Jihad is information and propaganda”. The authorities accuse him of inciting ethnic hatred against the Chinese.

The first hearing was held in Nur-Sultan on 29 July and it was decided to transfer the case to Almaty. The only evidence against Serikzhan Bilash are testimonies of witnesses who never met or worked with him. Half of the people who were questioned by the police attended a press conference on 24 July and stated that they did not find anything in Serikzhan Bilash’s speech that could be considered as inciting ethnic hatred. Serikzhan Bilash, who had been arbitrarily detained under house arrest in Nur-Sultan since 10 March 2019, remains under house arrest in his home in Almaty since 15 August. I urge you to drop the charges against Serikzhan Bilash and release him immediately and unconditionally as he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and defending human rights.

Yours sincerely,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES