On April 24, the judge of the Specialized Interdistrict City Court of Astana announced a formal conviction of Dr. Karim Massimov on the charges of treason, attempted seizure of power, and abuse of power in office, with a sentence of 18 years.

The wrongful detention and conviction of Karim Massimov on trumped up charges signal that the Government of Kazakhstan is not earnestly pursuing a course of democratization and transparency, and the international standards that Kazakhstan has an obligation to uphold. Instead, the Government continues an autocratic approach to denying local and international rule of law and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Massimov has been held in solitary confinement since January 5, 2022. For the first three months of detention, he was held incommunicado in prison. The entire investigation and trial against him have been held behind the cloak of secrecy, categorising the trial as “top secret.” Throughout his detention, he has been consistently denied adequate medical care, which has led to his health deteriorating significantly.

As the chosen scapegoat for the events of Bloody January, Dr. Massimov is considered the highest-profile political prisoner in Kazakhstan. During the investigation in March 2022, the General Prosecutor of Kazakhstan Berik Asylov announced that Massimov will receive a sentence of 17 years in prison. During the trial process in January 2023, the General Prosecutor named Karim Massimov the “main organizer” of January events. Both statements point to the political nature persecution against Karim.

Karim Massimov has been consistently denied his human rights, including the presumption of his innocence.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called on the Government of Kazakhstan to immediately release Karim Massimov, compensate him, and investigate those responsible for his arbitrary detention. In violation of this UN decision, Karim has been wrongfully detained in solitary confinement for over 15 months.

European Union, the United States, UK, Switzerland, and others have called on the Government of Kazakhstan to ensure an impartial and independent investigation into the January events of 2022, including an investigation into the human rights violations committed.

“Due to the lack of accountability for the January events and the human rights fallout of these events, Kazakhstan’s civic space rating was downgraded from ‘’obstructed’’ to ‘’repressed’’ on the CIVICUS Monitor in June 2022. This rating is typically given to countries where civic space is heavily contested by power holders who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights.”

The law does not provide for an independent judiciary, and both the executive and judicial branches limit judicial independence in practice. Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2022 report noted that while the constitution provides for judicial independence, courts had yet to prove this independence in cases involving high-profile officials, political activists, and independent NGOs.”

The unjustified trial against Massimov shows him as a convenient scapegoat for Bloody January. Nonetheless, President Tokayev has still not communicated a justification for calling in Russian troops under the CSTO banner, nor his order to “shoot to kill without warning” on January 7, 2022, which resulted in the deaths of over 230 people.

The Government of Kazakhstan should release Massimov from detention immediately. His release is all the more important now, given the severity of his health condition.

For more information, see KarimMassimov.com.