NUR-SULTAN -- Prosecutors in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, say they have closed the investigation into the mysterious death of a prominent Kazakh civil rights activist who died while in custody, in a case that sparked protests across the Central Asian nation.
The Nur-Sultan City Prosecutor’s Office said on May 28 that its investigators and forensic experts had concluded that Dulat Aghadil, a 43-year old father of six, had died of a heart attack in a detention center and that the case had been closed on May 25.
Aghadil’s mother told RFE/RL right after the statement was made public that Aghadil's relatives had not been informed about the decision to close the case.
Aghadil died while being held in pretrial detention in Nur-Sultan in late February, just one day after being arrested for failing to comply with a court order to report to local police.
Rallies in Nur-Sultan and several other cities in February and March demanding thorough investigations into Aghadil's death were sparked after a video emerged on February 28 showing what appeared to be wounds on the dead man's hands and feet and discolored areas scattered across his shoulders, back, upper arms, and other areas of the body.
Friends and fellow rights defenders have questioned the official account of Aghadil's detention that alleged he was intoxicated, saying he did not drink due to a medical condition.
They also say he had no history of heart issues.
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev broke his public silence on Aghadil's death in an interview on February 29, saying, "Given the public outcry, I carefully examined this matter [and] I can confidently say that, unfortunately, activist Aghadil died as a result of heart failure. To say the opposite is to deny the truth."
Aghadil had spent a combined two months in jail since his arrest in August for taking part in unsanctioned rallies and had made headlines with an escape one day before his planned release in November in what he said was a "protest [of] my illegal arrest."