Contact Us

Kazakh dissident Aron Atabek dies less than two months after release from prison

Reuters WORLD
Published November 25,2021

Kazakh dissident Aron Atabek has died less than two months after being released from prison where he had spent 15 years, rights activists said.

They blamed the authorities for the drastic deterioration of his health.

Writer and poet Atabek, 68, known as a fierce critic of the Nur-Sultan government, died late on Wednesday in a hospital where he was being treated for COVID-19, news website quoted the hospital administration as saying.

He was released from prison last month on the grounds of suffering an untreatable spinal cord disease having spent over 15 years behind bars out of his 18-year sentence.

Atabek had been found guilty of leading riots in 2006 that were prompted by the demolition of illegal settlements in Almaty and culminated in the murder of a policeman. He has denied any wrongdoing and refused to seek pardon, and was regarded by many as Kazakhstan's longest-serving political prisoner.

Images of Atabek after his release - looking emaciated - shocked fellow activists who have accused the authorities of deliberately destroying his health. The prison administration has told rights activists Atabek refused to be treated.

"He did not become like that - as we saw him on Oct.1 - overnight," activist Ainash Kerney wrote on Facebook. "It took many years and efforts to get him into such emaciated state."

There are no genuine opposition parties in the oil-rich nation of 19 million people, which had been run by one leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, for almost three decades until 2019 when he resigned and nominated loyal ally Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as his successor.