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Zhanbolat Mamai convicted and deprived of civil liberties


On April 10, one of the biggest political trials of this judicial session ended in Almaty.  Opposition politician Zhanbolat Mamai, who is the leader of the unregistered Democratic Party of Kazakhstan, has been sentenced to six years probation with a ban on any manifestations of political, civic, and journalistic activities. In addition to a suspended sentence of imprisonment, the Kazakh court has forbidden the political activist from engaging in any political and civic activity, including online.

The prosecution, represented by prosecutor Yerkin Baymagambetov, failed to provide well-reasoned evidence for at least two articles of the Criminal Code ‘Dissemination of Deliberately False Information’ and ‘Organisation of Mass Riots.’ Judge Elena Kwan of the Bostandyk district Court of Almaty No.2 also found the third charge of ‘insulting a representative of the authorities’ to be applicable, but the statute of limitations for this charge has already expired.

Along with the sentence, which the now convicted politician intends to appeal, he is deprived of the right to engage in any political and public activities through social media for a period of six years, like most who are convicted in Kazakhstan for political and religious reasons.

Until the verdict comes into force, Mamai will continue to be under house arrest.

Zhanbolat Mamai was first held in the police department’s temporary detention facility and then subsequently moved to pre-trial detention facility in February of 2022. He was detained for holding a memorial rally on December 16, 2021 at the Republic Square in Almaty. Other charges were soon added to his arrest, and he was never released. In November 2022, he was hastily transferred for house arrest, when a group of lawyers and members of parliament in the UK announced their intention to protect the rights of the Kazakh political prisoner.

A number of well-known international human rights organizations have expressed their demands to release Mamai, who is considered a prisoner of conscience.

Zhanbolat Mamai has a long history of opposing the Kazakh authorities, which is often met with prosecutions, arrests, and violence. Previously, Mamai, as editor-in-chief, ran the independent newspaper Tribune, which was shut down by authorities. As a result, he was sentenced to 2.5 years of ‘restriction of freedom’, which included a ban on engaging in journalistic activities. He was formally accused of ‘laundering criminal funds through the newspaper.’

At the end of February 2022, Zhanbolat Mamai was detained for 15 days for organizing an action in memory of the victims of the January events. However, after the administrative arrest, he was not released. On March 14, the court decided to arrest him for two months as a suspect under two articles of the Criminal Code – on the dissemination of deliberately false information and on insulting government officials. At the same time, criminal cases against Mamai remain ongoing since 2021.

In June of last year, the opposition politician was formally charged with additional charges of ‘organising mass riots’ and ‘spreading false information.’ The authorities connected these new charges to the January 2022 events. On October 24, Mamai’s accusation of ‘organising mass riots’ was reclassified to the charge of ‘organizing an illegal rally’ under Article 400 of the Criminal Code. Since November 2, 2022, the politician has been under house arrest. However, in January 2023, he was again accused of organizing mass riots in January 2022.