Germany's top human rights official has called on Kazakh authorities to release a prominent pro-reform theater director.
Human Rights Commissioner Markus Loening said in a statement that Bolat Atabaev was guilty of only using his constitutional right of free expression.
Atabaev, who was arrested last week, faces charges of "inciting social hatred" in connection with protests by striking oil workers in the western town of Zhanaozen, where police shot dead at least 16 people in mid-December.
Well-known German film director Volker Schloendorff has also urged Kazakh judges to release Atabaev, whom he knows personally.
Atabaev has been invited to travel to Germany in August to receive the Goethe Medal, an official decoration honoring non-Germans, for his contribution to cooperation between German and Kazakh theater.
Based on reporting by Deutsche Welle and Deutschlandradio