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Kazakh Protesters Demand Info On Aghadil’s Death In Custody, Seek Release Of Other Activists

People at the February 26 protest said there was no guarantee that other activists were safe in the detention center after what happened to Dulat Aghadil.

NUR-SULTAN -- Dozens of protesters have gathered in front of a central detention center in the Kazakh capital to demand detailed information about the mysterious death of a prominent civil rights activist while in custody and immediate release of dozens of other activists detained before and during anti-government rallies over the last weekend.

People at the February 26 protest said there was no guarantee that activists and supporters of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement and unregistered Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, who were detained on February 21-22, are safe in the detention center after what happened to Dulat Aghadil.

Nur-Sultan city police said on February 25 that Aghadil died in the detention center hours after he was detained for failing to meet a court order to report to local police.

According to police, Aghadil was intoxicated at the time of his arrest late on February 24 and died of heart problems hours later.

Aghadil's relatives and colleagues insist that Aghadil did not drink alcohol due to his health problems and had never complained about his heart.

Also on February 26, dozens of protesters rallied in the Central Asian nation's largest city, Almaty, demanding "truth" about Aghadil's death.

In the central city of Qaraghandy, at least one local activist was detained by police on February 26 after a group of protesters rallied in the city center demanding justice for Aghadil.

The unrest follows a similar rally the previous day when a crowd gathered in front of the Interior Ministry in Nur-Sultan on February 25 demanding ministry officials give them detailed information about Aghadil' death.

After nobody came out of the building, the activists blocked a central street near the ministry, but were quickly dispersed by police and more than 20 demonstrators were detained.

Protesters Dragged Away By Kazakh Police After Activist's Death
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On the same day in the cities of Almaty, Shymkent and Aqtobe, dozens rallied on that day, demanding dissolution of the government over the activist's death and the resignation of ex-President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who is now the life-time chairman of the Security Council and his daughter Darigha Nazarbaeva, who is the speaker of the parliament's upper chamber, Senate.

Kazakh Ombudswoman Elvira Azimova promised on February 25 to thoroughly investigate Aghadil's death.

"Because Aghadil was a civil rights activist, society has doubts [about his death]. All sides, including representatives of civil society must be allowed to take part in the investigation," Azimova said.

Meanwhile, campaigners told RFE/RL that at least six activists who intended to attend Aghadil's funeral, scheduled for February 27, were prevented from travelling to Nur-Sultan from the cities of Oskemen, Semei, and Shymkent.

Bakhytzhan Toreghozhina, the head of Almaty-based human rights foundation Ar.Rukh.Khaq (Dignity, Spirit, Truth), told RFE/RL on February 25 that official statements from Kazakh authorities were "often misleading."

"Surely, a thorough autopsy by independent experts is necessary to find the truth and exclude possible foul play," Toreghozhina said.

Aghadil was widely known for his civil rights activities. He was sentenced to several days in jail many times for taking part in unsanctioned rallies and resisting arrest. Since August last year, he had spent at least 60 days in jail.

In November, Aghadil made headlines after he escaped from jail just one day before his expected release. He later explained that he made the move "to protest my illegal arrest."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
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