Erulan Amirov appears in court in Shymkent on May 16.
SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- A court in the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent has rejected an appeal filed by lawyers of opposition activist Erulan Amirov of a lower court's ruling sentencing him to seven years in prison on terrorism charges.
The Shymkent City Court pronounced its decision on June 22. Amirov rejects the charges, and his lawyer, Murat Zholshiev, told RFE/RL that the ruling will be appealed. On May 16, the Al-Farabi district court in Shymkent sentenced Amirov after finding him guilty of inciting social hatred, propagating terrorism, and involvement in the activities of a banned organization. An RFE/RL correspondent said a bruise could be seen on Amirov's head in the courtroom that day, but when asked about it, the activist answered that he was "scared" to talk about it. Amirov, who went on trial in January, was arrested in April 2021. But his family only learned that he was being held in a detention center in Shymkent in December, after what a Kazakh human rights group said was attempt to commit suicide. Sharipa Niyazova, his mother, and his lawyer say the activist suffers from psychiatric disorders. Kazakh human rights organizations have declared Amirov a political prisoner and have demanded his release. The charges against Amirov stem from his posts on social media criticizing the authorities and for his participation in unsanctioned protest rallies organized by the banned Koshe (Street) political party. Many activists across the Central Asian country have been handed prison terms or parole-like restricted-freedom sentences in recent years for their involvement in the activities of the Koshe party and its affiliated Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement. The DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan's BTA Bank and outspoken critic of the government. Human Rights Watch earlier this year criticized the Kazakh government for using anti-extremism laws as a tool to persecute critics and civic activists. The authorities have insisted there are no political prisoners in the country.