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Hunger Striking Kazakh Activist Rushed From Prison To Hospital With Heart Issue

Kenzhebek Abishev (left) pictured with a law enforcement officer and his lawyer
Kenzhebek Abishev (left) pictured with a law enforcement officer and his lawyer

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Jailed Kazakh activist Kenzhebek Abishev, who started a hunger strike several days ago protesting the cancellation of his release on parole and prison conditions, was rushed overnight to hospital in a critical condition.

Abishev's lawyer, Gulnar Zhuaspaeva, told RFE/RL on April 15 that an ambulance brought her client to the Qapshaghai City Hospital overnight.

According to her, physicians diagnosed Abishev, who was recognized by human rights groups as a political prisoner, with coronary heart disease.

Zhuaspaeva quoted the hospital’s doctor, Zubaira Sarsenova, as saying that Abishev's current condition had improved to "stable."

An opposition activist, Rysbek Sarsenbaiuly, told RFE/RL that Abishev did not stop his hunger strike, adding that he and other activists urged him via the hospital window to end it to stay alive.

Sarsenbaiuly said he and his colleagues will demand authorities restore the court decision on Abishev's early release on parole.

Abishev, who was jailed for being linked to a political movement founded by a fugitive tycoon, launched the hunger strike on April 11 and wrote an open letter to President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev asking him to intervene in his case.

In his letter, Abishev called the cancellation of the court decision to release him on parole in February and the case against him "illegal," adding that his medical conditions -- heart and respiratory problems -- had worsened due to the lack of proper medical treatment in prison.

There have been no official statements regarding Abishev's hunger strike either by Kazakhstan’s Penitentiary Service or the Prosecutor-General’s Office.

On February 1, the Qapshaghai City Court in Kazakhstan's south ruled that Abishev can be released on February 16, more than three years early, for good behavior while in prison, a procedure allowed by Kazakh laws.

However, the Almaty regional prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling at the very last moment, arguing that the 53-year-old activist's good behavior in custody was not enough for his release since he still has more than three years to serve. The court then scrapped the move, leaving Abishev in prison.

Abishev was sentenced to seven years in prison in December 2018 after he and two other activists were found guilty of planning a "holy war" because they were spreading the ideas of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement. His prison term was later cut by eight months.

Abishev pleaded not guilty, calling the case against him politically motivated.

The DVK was founded by Mukhtar Ablyazov, an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government who has been residing in France for several years.

Ablyazov has been organizing unsanctioned anti-government rallies in Kazakhstan via the Internet in recent years.

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