Alnur’s Speech

Firsthand DOCA Kazakhstan

Alnur’s Speech

June 22, 2020

Almaty, Kazakhstan

This is a transcript of the final speech given by human rights activist Alnur Ilyashev at the sixth court hearing in the criminal case against him. His trial took place online on June 22. Ilyashev delivered his speech while in custody at a detention facility.

Earlier, on April 28, the international human rights group Amnesty International recognized Ilyashev as a “prisoner of conscience, deprived of his freedom for peaceful expression of his opinion” and called on the Kazakh authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release him”.

On June 22, a few hours after Ilyashev had spoken his final words in court,  Zalina Ilyasovna Makharadze, a judge of the Medeu District Court found Ilyashev “guilty of a crime” and sentenced him to three years of “restraint of liberty” and 100 hours of community service. He was deprived “of the right to engage in public activities to voluntarily serve the political, cultural, and professional needs of society; to create and take part in activities of political parties, public associations, and foundations, for a period of five years”. The suppressive measures against Ilyashev were changed from police custody, in which he has been for two months since April, to “house arrest and proper behavior until the sentence becomes enforceable. We order him to be released from custody immediately. After the sentence becomes enforceable, the measure of restraint in the form of house arrest and requirement of good behavior should be canceled.”

After clarifying the verdict, Ilyashev asked the judge: “Can I just stay in prison? You have basically deprived me of everything, of all possible activities.” Judge Makharadze replied that Ilyashev must “appear in a specialized body for registration within ten days of the sentence coming into force. ... In the case of intentional evasion of serving a sentence in the form of restriction of liberty, this period is automatically replaced by imprisonment”.

Illustration: Qantars

The final words of Alnur Ilyashev:

“I’ll allow myself to stand; I’d prefer to give this speech in court while standing.

Once again, I would like to greet everyone and, most importantly, to wish health to all participants in this criminal process, representatives of organizations, diplomatic missions, the media and citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan who are watching this process. Please take care of yourself during the current, difficult test that all of humanity faces in the form of the coronavirus pandemic. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. At the same time, I would like to draw attention to the fact that it seems that we are witnessing a historic case for the United Nations, in which the former Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, having come to power in his homeland, marks the second year of his reign with political repressions and the emergence of political prisoners. We need to start with someone.

Many institutions, encompassing communities of authoritative experts on civil liberties, human rights defenders, and diplomatic missions desire to make their voices heard in this process. They monitor the progress of Kazakhstan's fulfillment of its international obligations to respect human rights, and they react negatively to this and similar cases.

In my opinion, this case can rightfully be called “Nur Otan vs freedom of speech.” I understood that they would come for me relatively soon after the arrest of another civil activist, Azamat Baikenov, which also took place this spring. When information appeared about instituting criminal proceedings against a number of activists in Almaty, including my colleague Danaya Kaliyeva, I wrote a corresponding post that a purge is occurring ahead of the upcoming elections (August 2020 Senate elections). The state prosecution has requested a restriction of my activities to last five years. This corresponds exactly to the time until the next election. And not just the presidential election – my punishment will affect all subsequent upcoming parliamentary elections.

Our opponents prohibit us from waging political struggle. The Nur Otan party diligently tries to remove themselves from criminal case files, simply stating that their opponents are experiencing legal consequences due to their opposition to some unnamed “voluntary association”, although everyone knows very well that this is the Nur Otan party. This is obvious to everyone here.

Photo: Malika Autalipova
January 2020

Human rights and civil activists know that my goal is the development of political competition in Kazakhstan and the creation of a real independent multi-party system, which article 5 of the Constitution of Kazakhstan provides for. And, as is obvious, criticism and resistance are natural processes of change. Reformers and changemakers are always disliked. Complaints are lodged against them. They are victims of personal attacks and threats. We must understand this and continue forward to achieve our goals.

Zalina Ilyasovna, let me explain why I have never addressed you as “Dear Court” or “Your Honor” during the whole process: the arbitrary nature of this case was known from the beginning. It was also clear that the administrative ogans would exert as much pressure as they needed to see this case be resolved in their favor. It was clear that the court would not be independent and fair, as required by the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Moreover, I preferred to address you not as impartial and objective, but as a person and citizen under tremendous pressure, thus using the words “citizen Makharadze”. And this was confirmed by the course of this process. I have already voiced all the facts and insider forecasts; they have been recorded on video, and I also stated them earlier, during the challenge. You yourself know these circumstances best of all, and I confess that I do not envy the task that is before you.

Kazakhstani civil society will learn and see a lot upon considering this criminal case that has been isolated and fabricated against me. I think [inaudible] will arise at some hour X, on some day X for one reason or another. Perhaps it will be used as a kind of leash on my neck, to once again limit my rights. What can one do? This is the natural, historical process through which our state and our society must go. At the same time, we — civic activists and those progressive forces in our society which are trying to achieve positive changes — we urge governmental bodies to move together: many times, demonstrating goodwill, we have suggested that the authorities start a public dialogue about full, equal rights, but instead we were detained and blocked by police. And now we are being persecuted, criminal cases are fabricated against us, and we are accused of alleged crimes that simply do not exist, as was done during the years of the massive political repression of the 1930s. History repeats itself.

Now we are being persecuted, criminal cases are fabricated against us, and we are accused of alleged crimes that simply do not exist, as was done during the years of the massive political repression of the 1930s. History repeats itself.

The only thing that calms us is that a moratorium has been issued on the death penalty [inaudible], although the methods and means are the same. I know that, over time, I will inevitably be rehabilitated. I hope not posthumously. The criminal cases of that past era are still classified as “secret” so as not to disturb the minds of fellow citizens with the knowledge of the extent of the nasty, cowardly betrayals that took place. Today, on the other hand, we know the names of many of the perpetrators of modern crimes against the rights and freedoms of Kazakhstanis. One of our tasks in this process is to create a reliable barrier to the kind of political and legal backslide that we see in this reemergence of the special “troika” of the Stalin era, which was a collection of repressive investigations, prosecutors and courts.

Illustration: Roman Zakharov
January 2020

Judging by how the flywheel of political repression spins, a sharp increase in political prisoners may be ahead of us.

Therefore, realizing that this case’s outcome is condemnatory and predetermined, I declare my readiness to go to a place where my liberty is deprived in order to create a base there to help adapt and support other political prisoners in camps. Simultaneously, I will campaign and raise awareness among the staff of the criminal justice system.

In this regard, I appeal to my colleagues in the struggle against the increasingly totalitarian Nazarbayev regime. I urge people to remain calm and prepare for an escalation of the political crisis in Kazakhstan. We may find ourselves in a situation requiring us to utilize more conspiratorial methods of work. Those who remain free, I ask you to be vigilant. Consider going underground and using anonymous accounts, like the well-known “Nurbot factories” who constantly reply to our posts. Take, for example, the bitter experience of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan activists for their socio-political activities. It seems that the authorities did not appreciate our openness and used it against us.
In my opinion, the Nur Otan party should thank us. With our objective criticism, we have made them work even more intensively — we arranged a kind of stress test for them in anticipation of any upcoming real, passionate political competition. But, apparently, it is not in their style to show nobility towards their opponents. In turn, I want to thank them for the fact that, through their resistance, they have raised us to a higher level of involvement in the political process. The resonance that this case possesses testifies to this. In addition, this defense, a kind of pained reaction from the Nur Otan party, demonstrates to society the party’s vulnerability and their weaknesses and fears toward outside influences.

The injustices in the state of affairs of the Nur Otan party is evidenced furthermore by the fact that it’s easier for them to gag active opponents like myself, instead of changing ineffective methods and outdated policies. This is, of course, to the detriment of their own reputation. They are also incapable of figuring out how to conduct a full, normal dialogue. 
The fact that so many Kazakhstanis, especially those whom I personally did not know before the initiation of this criminal case, are showing up to engage with my case and provide so much uncompensated support for it gives me the strength to continue the struggle to uphold the principles, rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. Moreover, such outstanding historical figures as Genghis Khan, Sultan Baibars, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many, many others, are inspirational examples of those who passed the test of imprisonment, and of our contemporaries these are Aung San Suu Kyi and Nikol Pashinyan. Therefore, Zalina Ilyasovna, be calm while passing this verdict: I personally bear no ill will towards you. I know the true commissioners of this case and on the day of judgment I will take full compensation from them for the oppression they have brought against me, my friends, and relatives who were forced to face their tyranny.

I know the true commissioners of this case and on the day of judgment I will take full compensation from them for the oppression they have brought against me, my friends, and relatives who were forced to face their tyranny.

I am not Nazarbayev, and therefore, I am ready for life behind bars defending the honor and dignity of the people of Kazakhstan. I am ready to die there, if God wills it.

I am not Nazarbayev, and therefore I am ready to sacrifice the potential wealth and well-being of my family for the common well-being of the Kazakh people and the emerging Kazakh nation.

I am ready to sit only in order to demonstrate how many Kazakhstanis sit in camps and prisons, against whom criminal cases were roughly and unceremoniously fabricated.

I am ready to sit only in order to demonstrate how deliberately false testimonies and expert statements were fabricated. Deliberately unjust sentences were passed by the court. All this is the real Kazakhstani reality, and it needs to be stopped; we must fight it.

I leave my family and my unfinished business in the care of the Almighty in order to fulfill His will, for God and the Constitution are with us.
For the people, forward, Kazakhstan!”

I leave my family and my unfinished business in the care of the Almighty in order to fulfill His will, for God and the Constitution are with us.



According to the complaint lodged by the state, Ilyashev’s so-called “crime” consists of the publication of three posts on Facebook in March 2020, concerning the Nur Otan party and its leader Nursultan Nazarbayev (the posts are “The mountain gave birth to a mouse” and “Nur Otan - a party of crooks and thieves”). Read here.

Alnur Ilyashev was charged with “distribution of false information during a state of emergency” (Article 274, part 4, paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan).

Previously published materials regarding human rights activist Alnur Ilyashev, his civic activism, and the court proceedings against him:

“Fear of Dissent”(01.06.2020)

“You Can’t Run Away From the Truth: One Year Later” (21.04.2020)

“Nur Otan v. activists. Photo report” (27.01.2020)

“The party strikes back (a lawsuit in illustrations)” (27.01.2020)

“Public Rally in Almaty. Photo report ” (30.06.2019)


Published: June 22, 2020