Nur-Sultan Court Extends House Arrest For Kazakh Xinjiang Activist

Kazakh activist Serkizhan Bilash in court on June 7. RFE/RL

NUR-SULTAN -- A Kazakh court has extended the house arrest measure for the leader of a group that raised concerns over the internment of ethnic Kazakhs in China's northwestern Xinjiang region.

The court in the capital, Nur-Sultan, ruled on May 7 to prolong Serikzhan Bilash's house arrest until July 10.

Dozens of Bilash's supporters who came to the hearing held posters in Kazakh, Russian, English, and Chinese, demanding his immediate release and calling for the charge against him to be dropped.

Bilash was detained in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, in March before being transferred to Nur-Sultan and charged with inciting ethnic discord in March.

Bilash was born in Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan, and is a naturalized Kazakh citizen.

In recent months, his group Atazhurt Eriktileri (Volunteers of the Fatherland), has organized several gatherings of ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang who settled in Kazakhstan and complained that their relatives were held in so-called reeducation camps in the Chinese region.

In February, an Almaty court found Bilash guilty of being the leader of an unregistered organization and fined him the equivalent of $670.

Bilash said that the group will continue to defend the rights of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang and that he will try again to register the group at the Justice Ministry.

The United Nations said in August last year that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people of Xinjiang were being held in "counterextremism centers" in the region.

The UN also said millions more had been forced into internment camps.

China says that the facilities are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society.

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