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Kazakh Rights Lawyer Suspects Her Car Was Tampered With After Brake Malfunction

Aiman Omarova (right) specializes in seeking justice for victims of sexual abuse and also represents people who believe they are being prosecuted for political reasons.

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 car was tampered with in an attempt to injure her because of her professional activities.

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 she survived a car fire that started after a brake malfunction late on May 18.

Omarova, who has also worked as a lawyer for RFE/RL, said her car's brakes suddenly stopped functioning while she was driving and after it stopped abruptly, the front started burning.

"I am confident that it is linked to my professional activities. Luckily, I was driving slowly, when I found out that the brakes stopped working. I started screaming. When I was thinking about somehow turning the car to stop it or jumping out of it, it stopped and at that point the fire started.... Some important documents are gone. I am in a deep stress, " Omarova told RFE/RL.

Omarova successfully represented RFE/RL last month in a case over inaction by Almaty police over an attack on RFE/RL reporters.

Last year, Omarova said unknown individuals killed her dog, which she said was also an act linked to her professional activities.

She also said somebody 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, Sauytbay 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 in its relationship with China.

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    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.