RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on Kazakhstan to immediately release a well-known civil rights activist who has been charged with attacking a police officer during an unsanctioned rally in Almaty.
HRW said in a statement on June 12 that 36-year-old Asya Tulesova was detained on June 8, two days after she knocked off a police officer's hat, when law enforcement officers were using force while detaining protesters at an unsanctioned rally in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty.
On June 10, a court sent Tulesova to pretrial detention for 10 days on charges of "insulting a police officer" and "violence against the police."
She faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
"Locking up Asya Tulesova on the basis of these disproportionate charges is gross overreach on the part of both the police and the courts," Mihra Rittmann, senior Central Asia researcher at HRW, said on June 12.
"Restricting peaceful rallies and pursuing criminal sanctions against Tulesova shows Kazakhstan's repressive face when responding to peaceful protest," Rittmann added.
Police in Kazakhstan detained more than 100 protesters on June 6 in response to separate calls from two opposition groups, the unregistered Democratic Party of Kazakhstan and the banned Democratic Movement of Kazakhstan, for nationwide peaceful gatherings.
Tulesova's lawyers called her pretrial detention unlawful, saying that Kazakh criminal-procedural law envisages pretrial detention only in cases in which the charges carry a minimum five-year sentence.
In April 2019, Tulesova, known for her civic engagement and environmental activism, gained broader notoriety in the country for holding up a banner during the Almaty marathon with the words, "You can't run from the truth."
She and her friend Beibarys Tolymbekov were later sentenced to 15 days' detention at that time for violating Kazakhstan's restrictive public-assembly law.
HRW also urged the government to release a political activist, Alnur Ilyashev, who was arrested in April on charges of "disseminating knowingly false information" for social-media posts criticizing the ruling Nur-Otan party.
He faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
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