Jailed Kazakh activist Erzhan Elshibaev, recognized by rights groups as a political prisoner, has maimed himself to protest what he called "provocative" attempts by prison officials to prevent his release on parole.
Almaty-based human rights activist Bakhytzhan Toreghozhina told RFE/RL by phone on July 16 that Elshibaev had emergency surgery overnight after he cut open his abdomen hours after a court rejected his request for parole.
Toreghozhina said that Elshibaev started facing problems from prison officials in June as the date of his parole hearing neared.
According to Toreghozhina, Elshibaev was placed in solitary confinement in June after prison guards allegedly found a sharp handmade object in Elshibaev's belongings.
Elshibaev and rights defenders have insisted that the instrument was planted by the guards in order to mar his record and prevent his early release.
Elshibaev cut one of his wrists at the time to protest the situation.
RFE/RL phone calls to the administration of the ZK-169/5 penal colony in the southern Qyzylorda region, where Elshibaev is serving his term, were not answered on July 16.
The Central Asian nation's State Penitentiary Department's spokeswoman Dana Dosanova was not immediately available for comment either.
Elshibaev was sentenced to five years in prison in October 2018 after a court in his native town of Zhanaozen in the country's southwest found him guilty of hooliganism.
Elshibaev and his supporters have rejected the charges saying they were politically motivated and aimed at ensuring he wouldn't lead any protests in the restive town.
Elshibaev was one of the leaders of several protest rallies in Zhanaozen in 2018 where residents in the oil-industry town demanded jobs.
Kazakh authorities have been very sensitive to any dissent or protests in the volatile town, where police fatally shot at least 16 people while repressing protests by oil workers in December 2011.
In February, the European Parliament urged Kazakh authorities to release Elshibaev and other political prisoners.
Kazakhstan’s government has denied that there are political prisoners in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.