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Kazakhstan Extends House Arrest For Blogger Facing Extremism Charges

Aigul Otepova

NUR-SULTAN -- A Kazakh court has extended the house arrest of a journalist and blogger accused of involvement in the activities of a banned organization.

The Nur-Sultan city court on November 16 ordered Aigul Otepova stay under house arrest until December 17.

The 50-year-old journalist was placed under house arrest on September 17 after she placed a post on Facebook criticizing authorities' efforts to curb the coronavirus.

Authorities accused her of supporting the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) opposition movement that had been labeled as extremist and banned in the country.

Otepova denies any connection with DVK, saying that she is an independent journalist and blogger who expresses her own views.

Last week, a court ruled to place Otepova in a psychiatric clinic for one month to check her mental sanity.

Otepova's lawyer Ghalym Nurpeisov has told RFE/RL he would appeal the ruling, which has not come into force yet.

Otepova's daughter, Toqzhan Tugel, told RFE/RL that by placing her mother into a psychiatric clinic, the authorities are trying to silence her ahead of Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections scheduled for January 10, 2021.

Human rights groups have criticized the Kazakh government for persecuting independent and opposition journalists for years.

In 2018, a court in the southern city of Shymkent, placed journalist and blogger Ardaq Ashim in a psychiatric clinic after she criticized the government in her articles.

After her release, Ashim left for Ukraine, where she currently resides.

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