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Late Kazakh Activist's Son Buried Amid Questions, Criticism Of Government

Some 200 people braved the cold weather to attend Zhanbolat Aghadil's funeral on Novermber 13.
Some 200 people braved the cold weather to attend Zhanbolat Aghadil's funeral on Novermber 13.

TALAPKER, Kazakhstan -- The teenage son of a late civil rights activist in Kazakhstan has been buried amid claims of foul play and harsh criticism of authorities over the way the death has been handled.

Despite cold temperatures and coronavirus restrictions, some 200 people arrived at the village of Talapker near Nur-Sultan, on November 13 to bid farewell to 17-year-old Zhanbolat Aghadil, who was stabbed to death on November 10 in what authorities called a brawl between youngsters.

The teenager's death sparked protests across the Central Asian nation and demands for a thorough investigation as the young man's father, Dulat Aghadil, a prominent civil right activist, had died mysteriously while in custody in February.

In his eulogy at Zhanbolat Aghadil's burial, Kazakh opposition activist Baltash Tursymbaev accused Kazakh authorities of "failing to cherish the best citizens of Kazakhstan."

"The Kazakh people have been losing their sons, who sincerely love their nation and their land. The roots of this situation are very deep. The reason for this is the thievish authorities whose hands are stained with blood," Tursymbaev said.

Another opposition figure, Rysbek Sarsenbaiuly, said that he does not believe the official version of the young man's death.

In Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, dozens of activists gathered at the Shoqan Ualikhanov Square, urging the government to thoroughly investigate the deaths of both Dulat and Zhanbolat Aghadil and to stop persecuting activists.

In many Kazakh towns and cities, people gathered in local mosques or central squares to pray and honor Zhanbolat Aghadil and his father on November 13.

At least in two sites, in the southern city of Shymkent and the northwestern city of Aqtobe, police and local officials tried to interrupt the prayers, citing coronavirus restrictions, but the activists commemorated the two men anyway.

Aghadil's father died while being held in pretrial detention in Nur-Sultan just hours after being arrested for failing to comply with a court order to report to local police.

Authorities said at the time that Dulat Aghadil died from a heart attack, but his family and fellow rights defenders say he had no history of heart issues.

Rallies were held in Nur-Sultan and other cities in February and March to demand a thorough investigation into his death.

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