NUR-SULTAN — Activists in Kazakhstan are demanding answers after a video surfaced that appears to show the body of Dulat Aghadil, who mysteriously died in police custody this week, with multiple bruises and other injuries.
The video began circulating on the Internet late on February 27, after Aghadil was buried in his native village of Talapker, near Nur-Sultan, the capital. The video shows Aghadil’s body after it was delivered to his relatives.
Aghadil, who was detained late on February 24, died hours later in custody. Authorities have said he was intoxicated and died of “heart failure with no traces of violence having been found on his body.”
Aghadil’s friends and rights defenders, however, have questioned the explanation, saying he did not drink due to a medical condition and that he had no history of heart issues.
In what will only add to their suspicions, the graphic video shows what appear to be wounds on Aghadil’s hands and feet and discolored areas scattered across his shoulders, back, upper arms, and other areas of his body.
Numerous scratches and small holes can be seen on many parts of the body.
Aghadil’s relatives have refused to comment on the video.
A medical expert who was present during the autopsy, Ruslan Satybaldiev, refused to comment, telling RFE/RL that he signed a nondisclosure agreement with the authorities as an investigation is under way.
After the video was released, Bakhytzhan Toreghozhina, the head of the Almaty-based human rights foundation Ar.Rukh.Khaq (Dignity, Spirit, Truth), demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Erlan Turghymbaev and the immediate investigation and interrogation of the officers involved in Aghadil’s detainment.
Ivar Dale of the Helsinki Committee in Norway said the evidence warrants an immediate, independent autopsy while calling out President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev for failing to comment on Aghadil’s death.
“Authorities previously claimed, absurdly, that he died from being drunk. Does President @TokayevKZ have an opinion on the matter?” he said in a tweet.
Though Toqaev has yet to comment, Eldos Kilymzhanov, the deputy prosecutor of Nur-Sultan, told reporters on February 28 that the video of Aghadil’s body was shot and distributed online without the consent of Aghadil’s relatives, adding that his mother has filed an official complaint with city prosecutors asking to “undertake measures against individuals, who shot the video and distributed it without the family’s consent.”
Kilymzhanov reiterated the authorities’ previous statement, saying that Aghadil died of heart failure and said that what looked like bruises on Aghadil’s body were the result of “postmortem lividity.”
Arman Khanbekov, who was introduced by Kilymzhanov as a forensics expert for the city of Nur-Sultan, told the briefing that he was present during Aghadil’s autopsy and reiterated Kilymzhanov’s statement that postmortem lividity, or cadaveric spots, appear in dead bodies as blood pools in some areas depending on the body’s position after death.
Kilymzhanov also said that Aghadil’s brother and the family’s lawyer were present at the autopsy and had no objections to the procedure or to the official version of the cause of death.
“We call on citizens to stay away from expedited conclusions and not to distribute false information,” Kilymzhanov said.
Aghadil, a 43-year-old father of six, was widely known for his civil rights activities. He was sentenced to several days in jail several times for taking part in unsanctioned rallies and resisting arrest. Since August 2019, he had spent at least 60 days in jail.
In November, Aghadil made headlines after he escaped from jail just one day before his expected release. He later explained that he made the move “to protest my illegal arrest.”
He was buried on February 27.