Tokayev denies claims activist died from torture

The demonstration in memory of Dulat Agadil on 27 February. Photo by Bagdat Asylbek, Fergana

Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has commented on the high-profile death of activist Dulat Agadil, who recently died in detention in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan. His comments came in the course of an interview with (in Russian). The head of state denied that Agadil had died due to police violence.

The journalists conducting the interview pointed out that many people doubt the official version of events and suspect that the activist died due to torture.

“Given the level of public interest in this case, I have made myself familiar with all its details. I can fully assure people that, unfortunately, the activist Agadil passed away as a result of heart failure. To make any claims counter to this is to go against the truth,” Tokayev stated.

“We are all subject to the will of the Almighty,” he added. “May he rest in peace.”

Civil rights activist Dulat Agadil passed away on 25 February while in pre-trial detention in the capital, where he had been brought the day before. Police announced that criminal charges had been brought against him for “contempt of court and insulting a judge and the participants of a court hearing”. According to the official version, “due to his refusal to cooperate with the investigation”, the activist was taken into custody.

Official statements claim that Agadil had been drunk at the time of his arrest. The next morning, police say, he felt unwell and an ambulance was called, but he passed away before medics could arrive. The cause of death was announced as “acute cardiovascular failure”.

Friends and relatives of Dulat Agadil, however, do not believe the official version of his death. “I have no recollection of him ever complaining of any heart problem,” fellow activist Zhanbota Alzhanova said. The possibility that the activist died at the hands of the police was widely discussed on social media. A demonstration was organised demanding that those responsible for his death be brought to justice. Against the backdrop of this, the Kazakh internal affairs ministry and the office of the country’s prosecutor-general released statements reiterating the official version.

Images of what appeared to be bruising on the activist’s body were also spread on social media, with some people contending that the marks were signs of torture. The office of the prosecutor-general stated that the marks were merely livor mortis.

Dulat Agadil was a civil rights activist who frequently took part in peaceful demonstrations calling for the release of political prisoners and was often arrested for doing so. In November 2019, Agadil was held at the offices of the prosecutor-general after “escaping” from temporary detention in the village of Akmol not far from the capital. “I fled in order to report the injustices that are being perpetrated at the Tselinograd district police station, in the Tselinograd district court and the district prosecutor’s office,” Agadil stated at the time.