On the morning of August 12, Medeu District Court No. 2 in Almaty found civil rights activist Asya Tulesova guilty and sentenced her to a fine of ~$130 under article 378, section 1, and one year and six months of probation under article 380, section 2. After sentencing, Asya Tulesova was released from pre-trial detention, where she had been held for more than two months (read the context of this story here).
Asya Tulesova’s trial began on August 3. Seven online sessions took place between August 3 and August 11, in which six members of the police were questioned as victims in the case. During the proceedings, the activist’s lawyers, Johar Utebekov, Nazerke Rizabekova, and Alimzhan Oralbai, as well as Asya’s mother and her legal defender Zhanar Jandosova, drew attention to the many contradictions in the testimony of the “victims,” as well as mistakes and violations in the investigation. In particular, the video used as the primary basis for the charges was shown to be edited together from multiple recordings and inconsistent with the actual chronology of events for June 6. The defense called Daniyar Moldabekov, a journalist for the online magazine Vlast, and Litvinenko, the investigator who opened the criminal case against Tulesova, as witnesses. Experts were also called on the initiative of the defense team to perform photographic and linguistic evaluations of the video recordings. One expert, Ilyinikh, confirmed that Tulesova’s hand only touched the police officer’s cap, not his head, as the prosecution argued. Karymsakova, a linguist, concluded that the activist’s statements did not contain indecent content. Despite all the arguments presented, the prosecutor asked the court for a sentence of one year in prison. In his closing argument, counsel for the defense Johar Utebekov mentioned that he considers the case politically motivated.
Today, dozens of Asya’s fellow civil rights activists, journalists, friends, and loved ones gathered at the courthouse to await the verdict. After the court ruled to release her from custody, the majority of those gathered headed to the detention facility to meet the activist.
Asya’s lawyers, Johar Utebekov, Nazerke Rizabekova, and Alimzhan Oralbai, also came to support her. Asya Tulesova, her mother Zhanar Jandosova, and all in attendance applauded the lawyers several times and thanked their team for the professionalism with which they conducted their work on the case.
The lawyers, in turn, noted that the wide societal support for Asya Tulesova played an important role in the case.
Throughout the entire process, a number of human rights defenders and international organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights) condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies in official announcements; they also called upon the Kazakhstani authorities to terminate the criminal proceedings against Asya Tulesova and release her from custody.
Asya Tulesova, an environmental and civil activist, is the head of the public foundation “Common Sense,” and one of the founders of the environmental organization Almaty Urban Air (AUA). For several years she has been engaged in the study of air pollution in Almaty and activist work to solve environmental problems.
Tulesova was one of the participants of the 2019 art demonstration “You can’t run away from the truth,” which took place at the Almaty marathon on April 21 of that year. She was arrested and sentenced by a court to 15 days of detention. During the trial, she made a heartfelt speech which was later quoted by the media and activists on their posters at numerous solidarity rallies in Kazakhstan, Europe and the United States.
On Saturday, June 6, 2020, peaceful rallies were held in the cities of Kazakhstan, at which 53 people were detained, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The protesters were detained in a rude manner, often with the use of violence and unjustified physical force by the police. According to eyewitnesses, ordinary passers-by were placed in police vehicles along with the participants of the peaceful rally. In Almaty, Tulesova tried to protect civilians in front of one of the police vehicles, and for this she was detained. Several police officers took part in the arrest of Tulesova, grabbing her and throwing her to the ground. She was taken to the Police Department of the Medeu region of Almaty along with other detainees, where she was held for several hours. After her initial release, Tulesova, together with journalists, human rights defenders and civil activists, remained at the police building and demanded the release of her illegally detained fellow citizens. At about 6:00 pm, police officers forcibly took Tulesova to the PD without explaining the reasons for her detention. Later, according to Tulesova's mother, she was taken to the outskirts of the city and released.
On the evening of June 8, Tulesova was summoned for interrogation as a suspect in a criminal case. Тhat evening, she was sent to a temporary detention center. A few days later she was transferred to a pre-trial detention center.
Tulesova was charged under two articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Article 380 part 1 - “The use of violence that is not dangerous to life or health, or the threat of violence against a government official” and Art. 378 part 2 - “Insulting a representative of the authorities.” A fragment of a video taken on June 6, in which she brushes the cap off the head of one of the police officers who took part in the arrest of the protesters, was used as proof of these charges against Tulesova. Later, it became known that a total of six police officers were the “victims” in the case.
Despite all the petitions that have been collected to relieve the repressive measures against Tulesova (asking to commute her detention to allowing her to post bail and sign an agreement not to flee the country), she remained in custody for the whole trial period. One of Tulesova's lawyers, Dzhokhar Utebekov, wrote on his Facebook page that he considers the court's decision to take Asiya Tulesova into custody incorrect, referring to the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan: the maximum punishment under the article imputed to her is three years in prison, and according to article 147 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, "people can only be arrested for crimes that merit a punishment of over five years." The lawyer also clarified: “While there are seven exceptions to this rule in the Criminal Procedure Code, the investigator did not cite any of them to the court in their ruling on the measure of restraint.
An appeal to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan created on June 9 demanding the release of Tulesova collected more than 4000 signatures in one day and was transmitted to the presidential administration through the government’s online portal. However, according to the website of the Coalition for the Safety and Protection of Human Rights Defenders (PANA), the appeal has remained unanswered.
Initially, Zalina Makharadze was the appointed judge to Tulesova’s case. In June, she sentenced civil activist Alnur Ilyashev to three years of restriction of freedom for criticizing the Nur Otan party.
At a preliminary hearing on July 7, lawyers Dzhokhar Utebekov and Nazerke Rizabekova filed 8 motions, of which only three were satisfied: to recognize Zhanar Dzhandosova, mother of Asiya Tulesova, her defender, to attach expert opinions to the case materials and to conduct a forensic philological examination. On July 24, human rights activist Bakhytzhan Toregozhina wrote on her Facebook page that the examination of the Tulesova case had been completed and the case had been transferred back to court. On July 28, it became known that Tulesova’s case was transferred to another judge —Taken Shaimanovich Shakirov.
Asya Tulesova’s trial began on August 3.