Kazakh Journalist and Political Asylum Seeker Arrested in Kyiv
23 October, 2017

Kazakh journalist Zhanara Akhmet has been detained in Kyiv.

According to her lawyer Vladislav Hryschenko, the journalist and public figure was detained because she is on Interpol’s international wanted list at the request of the Kazakh authorities.

Zhanara Akhmet and her 9-year-old son have lived in Kyiv for less than a year and have applied for political asylum.

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

Hromadske sat down with Zhanara Akhmet back in July 2017, shortly after she moved to Kyiv. She explained her reasons for fleeing her homeland:

“Having received 5 warnings, I decided to flee, especially since I saw that I was being watched. Sure, they had been monitoring us for years, monitoring us all - lawyers, activists, journalists. But when you are under surveillance, this is a very, very serious sign.”

Akhmet also told Hromadske in July that she felt safe in her new home in Ukraine and that “only the Kazakh authorities could cause trouble here.”

However, this sense of security seems to have been short-lived. Her lawyer described the events of her recent arrest to Hromadske:

“On October 21, at around 6 p.m., the lights went off in Zhanara Akhmet’s apartment, when she went into the corridor to see what had happened (because the whole block had light), two people in civilian clothes came up to her. They said they were officers in the Ukrainian police, however, they did not present any documents,” her lawyer says.

According to Hryschenko, Zhanara Akhmet suspects that they were actually Kazakh law enforcement officers.

Akhmet was able to call the building’s security guard and then demanded to call the police. The people in civilian clothes disappeared once the police arrived.

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“However, the incoming police received information that a person, who was hiding from Kazakh law-enforcement and on the Interpol wanted list, was living at that address,” Hryschenko told Hromadske.

According to Vladislav Hryschenko, the defense was not given information about when and which case Zhanara Akhmet was wanted for.

“Our first country of residence was Kyrgyzstan. It was pointless going to Russia. And Turkey as well. Therefore Ukraine was the most obvious choice.

Firstly, it’s quick to learn the language, and there are a lot of Russian speakers here. We are now going through the process of applying for political asylum. I could easily stay in Ukraine - it’s a country which is open to everyone. But, due to the fact I was being persecuted...they were searching for me everywhere: at my parent’s, my sisters, my friends’ house. Therefore, I need protection. I just need somewhere to live, I still need protection from our authorities, from political persecution.”

On Monday, October 23, the court will have to decide whether or not to arrest her for 40 days under the the appropriate procedure.

The journalist Zhanara Akhmet was forced to flee to Ukraine from Kazakhstan in March 2017. Back in her homeland, several cases were opened against her, which Zhanara believes to be politically motivated.

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