Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning issued the following statement in Berlin today (19 June) on the imprisonment of Kazakh theatre director Bolat Atabayev, which has just come to light:
I am very concerned by the arrest of Bolat Atabayev. He is being investigated on charges of “inciting social discord” even though he simply made use of his right to freedom of opinion by giving a speech.
As a member of the OSCE, Kazakhstan has committed itself to democratic principles such as freedom of opinion and freedom of assembly. I now expect the Kazakh Government to honour its obligations.
I call on the Kazakh authorities to release Bolat Atabayev immediately, to halt proceedings against him and to enable him to travel to Weimar so he can receive the Goethe Medal.
Bolat Atabayev was arrested on 15 June. He has been under investigation on charges of “inciting social discord” since January. He is accused of delivering a speech in public in the western Kazakh city of Zhanaozen on 16 December 2011 just before the violent clashes broke out. His work is not part of the investigation. Mr Atabayev is one of four persons accused, two of whom have been remanded in custody pending trial since January.
During his many years as the artistic director of the German Theatre in Almaty, Bolat Atabayev has done an outstanding service to German Kazakh cultural relations. On 28 August, he will be awarded the Goethe-Institut’s Goethe Medal in Weimar.