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Kazakh Activist Syzdykov Detained on Drug Trafficking Charges


On the 16th of May, Human rights defender and political activist Aidar Syzdykov has been detained in Astana after a search by police officers from the Department for Drug Crime and an employee from the Department for Combating Extremism. Syzdykov is one of the founders of the opposition party “Alga, Kazakhstan!”, and has been accused of selling three grams of marijuana to a certain Ivanov about a month ago.

The police searched Syzdykov’s apartment and took him away in a minibus with shaded windows. He was taken to the Astana Police Department, where he was kept until 5 o’clock in the evening, and eventually placed in a temporary detention center at the Department of Internal Affairs of Astana. Syzdykov’s wife, Aigul Tokpayeva, attempted to report the event directly on social media through which people in camouflage uniforms took him away. Tokpayeva was holding her child in her arms, but this did not stop the security forces from forcibly taking her phone.

The reasons for the detention and search became known only today from the speech of his lawyer Meirzhan Doskaraev. He revealed that his client is charged with drug trafficking (Article 297, Part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan) on the basis that on the 17th of April 2024, he allegedly sold three grams of marijuana to a certain ‘Ivanov’.

Aidar Syzdykov is one of the founders of the opposition party “Alga, Kazakhstan!” and the closest associate of its leader Marat Zhylanbayev, who is serving a camp sentence on charges of financing the public movements “Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan” and “Koshe Partiyasy”, banned by the district court of Astana in 2019. Kazakh authorities view the new party as a successor to two previously banned organizations and consistently deny its registration, citing various pretexts. On April 24, the ‘Alga’ party made another attempt to submit registration documents to the Ministry of Justice. Following this, Astana police detained participants from the Ministry visit, charging them under Article 488 of the Code of Administrative Offenses for allegedly holding an unauthorized rally.

Concurrently, Syzdykov was also detained by police on the 1st of March of 2024 in an administrative case of an unauthorized protest a year ago. He was arrested and detained for 15 days (about 2 weeks), for a picket facade calling for the release of all political prisoners placed in front of the Delegation of the European Union in Astana.

In the administrative case against Syzdykov, the time between the alleged offense and prosecution spanned a record year. However, in his criminal case, the interval was just one month, with a much harsher potential penalty. Furthermore, pro-government propaganda is expected to exploit these accusations—financing extremism against Marat Zhylanbayev and drug trafficking against Aidar Syzdykov—as a weapon against the political opposition.