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Nurdauletov Gizat Daurenbekovich
Prospect Mengilik, 14
Fax: +7 7172 506 402
Email: [email protected]
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.