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Kazakh Activist Placed In Psychiatric Clinic, Lawyer Warns Of Opposition Sweep Ahead Of Vote

Disabled Kazakh activist Asanali Suyubaev being detained by police in Aqtobe in February
Disabled Kazakh activist Asanali Suyubaev being detained by police in Aqtobe in February

AQTOBE, Kazakhstan -- Authorities in the northwestern Kazakh city of Aqtobe have forcibly placed a wheelchair-bound activist in a psychiatric clinic after he allegedly tore down a poster of the ruling Nur Otan party.

Dana Zhanai, the chairwoman of the Qaharman human rights center, said on December 22 that activist Asanali Suyubaev had been taken to a psychiatric clinic a day earlier, a move she says is likely part of a campaign by the ruling party to sideline activists ahead of January 10 parliamentary elections.

The clinic's deputy chief physician, Esenaman Nysanov, confirmed to RFE/RL that Suyubaev had been brought to the facility by medical personnel and police.

"The patient has mental changes. But he does not accept it. He behaved in a strange way, namely, while outside, he was tearing election posters, which can be defined in a medical term as addictive behavior," Nysanov said, adding that Suyubaev had been under "psychiatric control" since 2012.

Aqtobe police refused to comment on Suyubaev’s situation.

Zhanai told RFE/RL that Suyubaev was forcibly placed in a psychiatric clinic for 20 days in April after he distributed leaflets for the unregistered and banned Koshe (Street) party.

"The authorities isolated him intentionally right before the [January 10] parliamentary elections. Activists have started a campaign to prove that the ruling Nur Otan party's ratings are fictitious and that votes will be stolen during the poll. Because of that, many activists across Kazakhstan are being persecuted now. Many are under house arrest, in detention centers, and in this case, they put Suyubaev in a psychiatric clinic," Zhanai said.

Rights activists in Kazakhstan have criticized authorities for using a Soviet-era method of stifling dissent by placing opponents in psychiatric clinics..

Earlier in November, another government critic, journalist Aigul Otepova, was placed in a psychiatric clinic for 18 days. She was released on December 11 and remains under house arrest over posting an article on Facebook criticizing official efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Investigators have charged her with having links with banned opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, which Otepova denies.

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