ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A prominent Kazakh human rights lawyer who aided a woman who helped expose "reeducation camps" for Muslims in neighboring China says she believes her dog was poisoned in a fatal attack meant to frighten her.
Aiman Omarova, who also represents victims of sexual abuse and was a recipient of the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award for 2018, said that she found her dog dead in the backyard of her home in Almaty early on June 5.
The dog was 5 years old and had been in good health, Omaraova said, adding that he was a friendly pet and that she had never had any trouble with neighbors over him.
"Most likely, my dog was poisoned. And I am confident that it is because of my professional activities," said Omarova, who filed a complaint with the police.
She said that earlier this year somebody had hung a dead cat on the gate of her home in what she believes was meant as a warning.
Omarova specializes in seeking justice for victims of sexual abuse, mainly women and children, and also represents people who believe they are being prosecuted for political reasons or to stifle dissent in tightly controlled Kazakhstan.
Her dog's death came shortly after she helped Sairagul Sauytbay, who fled China in 2018, leave Kazakhstan for Sweden after Kazakh authorities refused to give her political asylum.
At a trial in Kazakhstan on charges of illegal border crossing, she testified that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in China's Xinjiang province were undergoing "political indoctrination" in a network of "reeducation camps."
Revelations from Sauytbay and others have created diplomatic difficulties for energy-rich Kazakhstan, which is holding a snap presidential election on June 9 after the resignation of longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbaev, in its relationship with China.