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By the decision of the Expert Council of February 18, 2023, the following persons were recognized as political prisoners:

  1. Utepov Aslan, leader of the Public Association “People against Corruption”, human rights defender, activist, individual entrepreneur from Uralsk. He was detained on December 30, 2022, and charged with “fraud” and “incitement to bribery”. Utepov claims provocation by the security services, which he has criticized. At the moment he is in custody in the Uralsk pre-trial detention center.
  2. Abzhan Makhambet is an independent journalist and founder of the “Abzhan News” telegram channel. On July 03, 2022 M.Abzhan was detained on suspicion under Article 194 and Article 274 of the Criminal Code of the RK for extortion of 50 million tenge and spreading knowingly false information at the request of R.Makhat, who was called an “assistant” of Kairat Satybaldy, the nephew of N.Nazarbayev. The court took place behind closed doors at the request of the aggrieved party and on February 03, 2023, M. Abzhan was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment.

Brief information about the persons on the list:

1. Utepov Aslan is well known in Uralsk for combating the illegal sale of medical drugs, specifically tramadol. According to the investigation, Utepov received money from a local businesswoman in return for receiving a land plot. In his public activities, Aslan Utepov has frequently criticized the leadership of the WKO Prosecutor’s Office and a number of law enforcement agencies, as well as judges of the city and region. Supporters of Utepov consider that the arrest of the human rights defender was motivated by revenge and was the result of provocation by the law enforcement agencies and the authorities of WKO. On December 31, 2022, a ruling was issued to qualify his actions under Art. 194, 190, 367 of the Criminal Code of the Republic Of Kazakhstan. At the moment, investigative actions are underway. Under the principle of the presumption of innocence, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a valid verdict of a court, and under international standards, in particular, under paragraph 3 of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Kazakhstan, pretrial detention should be an exception to the rule, not the rule, and may be conditioned by guarantees of appearance before the bodies of pretrial investigation and the court. Given that Mr. Utepov is a human rights defender and civic activist, that he and his supporters allege provocation by the security forces which he has criticized, and that he has been detained in custody, one can see political motivation in his case, at least until his guilt is proven in a fair trial.            

2. Abzhan Makhambet. On December 28, 2022 the Deputy Prosecutor of Astana, Senior Counselor of Justice Berdibekov E.S. drew up an indictment against Abzhan M. for committing criminal offences: extortion by threat of dissemination of information disgracing the victim, or other information, disclosure of which may cause substantial harm to the interests of the victim. His publications referred to mining farms, bitcoins and other activities of influential businessmen. M. Abzhan did not admit to all the charges brought against him. The International Foundation for the Protection of Freedom of Speech “ Adil Soz” made a statement on the case of Abzhan M. “that an open trial is intended to demonstrate to society the fairness of justice, while the consideration of cases against journalists and other public figures behind closed doors raises doubts about the validity of charges, the fairness and objectivity of the court’s review and urged to abandon such practices and protect the right of defendants to an open and fair trial”, which was ignored by the Kazakh authorities. Article 29 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan provides for the possibility of a closed trial in the interests of the protection of the victim or other participants in the process, but there must be very serious reasons for such a trial. The court’s ruling did not provide such serious justification, which cast doubt on whether all the standards of a fair trial against Abzhan were met in a closed trial as well as strengthened the view that this criminal prosecution was based on political motivation.  

Expert Council:

Galym Ageleuov

Lukpan Akhmedyarov

Zauresh Battalova

Gulmira Birzhanova

Anara Ibraeva

Yevgeniy Zhovtis

Yerlan Kaliev


Amangeldy Shormanbaev February 18, 2023, Almaty


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