Amnesty International has called on authorities in Kazakhstan to halt criminal proceedings against a pregnant woman accused of giving financial backing to an opposition political movement.
The London-based rights watchdog said in a statement on April 18 that Aqmaral Tobylova was charged "merely for browsing" the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan's (DVK) website.
Amnesty said that a Kazakh court on April 13 ruled that Tobylova be released on bail on medical grounds.
However, the 28-year-old female graphic designer, who had been held under house arrest since mid-March, remains charged with financing an extremist organization.
"There was nothing forbidden there. I was interested in their program because they promised good pensions and housing," Amnesty quoted Tobylova as telling the Kazakhstani International Bureau of Human Rights.
Tobylova, a resident of Almaty, was detained on March 13, the day after a court declared the DVK movement to be an extremist organization, saying it "propagates the forcible change of Kazakhstan's constitutional order."
DVK was established by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
"Bloggers, activists, and members of the public continue to be subjected to police questioning and arrests for expressing support for the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan opposition party," Amnesty International said.
The group said the criminal proceedings against Tobylova and any others who have been charged under antiextremism legislation "simply for the peaceful exercise of their human rights" should be stopped.
It also urged Kazakhstan to amend what it called "vaguely worded provisions" in antiextremism legislation and ensure that they are not "misused to target political opponents and stifle dissent."
Opponents and rights groups say President Nazarbaev, who has held power in Kazakhstan since before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.