Accessibility links

Breaking News

Kazakh Court Fines Top Activist Charged With 'Inciting Ethnic Tensions'

Serikzhan Bilash appears in court in Almaty on July 29.

NUR-SULTAN -- A prominent Kazakh activist on trial for inciting ethnic tensions has been released from police custody and fined the equivalent of nearly $300.

Serikzhan Bilash, who has campaigned for the release of ethnic Kazakhs in China, told supporters outside the courtroom in Almaty on August 16 that his release was a "victory for the people."

Bilash, the leader of Atazhurt Eriktileri (Volunteers of the Fatherland), has been under house arrest in Nur-Sultan since March after his organization staged several gatherings of ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang who have resettled in Kazakhstan.

He has criticized the conditions at what the Chinese government calls "re-education camps."

Bilash has been accused of advocating an uprising against the Chinese Communist Party because of alleged atrocities being committed at the camps.

Bilash was born in Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan, and is a naturalized Kazakh citizen.

In February, an Almaty court found Bilash guilty of being the leader of an unregistered organization and fined him the equivalent of $670.

Atazhurt Eriktileri has been operating in Kazakhstan since 2017 without proper registration.

Bilash has said that his group will continue to defend the rights of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, where some of his relatives still live.

The United Nations said in August 2018 that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people of Xinjiang were being held in what it described as "counterextremism centers" in northwestern China.

The UN also said millions more had been forced into internment camps.

China says that the facilities are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society.

  • 16x9 Image

    RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

    RFE/RL's Kazakh Service offers informed and accurate reporting in the Kazakh and Russian languages about issues that matter in Kazakhstan, while providing a dynamic platform for audience engagement and the free exchange of news and ideas.