On 27 March 2020, a video message from Dias Moldalimov was posted on BASE and other YouTube channels. In his message, he strongly criticized the authorities for their handling of the quarantine, and expressed an opinion that rallies across the country would soon end and hungry people would resort to storming Akorda. In his video, Dias was appealing to the state with a question on how it would be helping its citizens during a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A few hours after his video was published, national security and police began searching for him. On 28 March he was arrested by five police officers and taken to the Almaty city police department. During the arrest, his rights and obligations were read out to him, and later he was informed that he had been charged under article 274 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Dissemination of false information) in connection with his video message in social networks appealing to the government concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on available information, in the office of the investigator Abdullayev there were three operatives, an on-duty prosecutor, and two plain-clothed men who, Dias presumed, were the “national security agents.” The interrogation lasted for approximately five and a half hours, with Mr. Moldalimov being threatened and demanded to relinquish his mobile phone so that the videos could be deleted.
Investigator Abdullayev suggested that he should voluntarily testify against himself. Exercising his right not to testify against himself, Dias refused to provide any testimonies or information. He informed of his intent to defend his innocence in a court of law.
A pre-trial investigation into Mr. Moldalimov was launched under Article 274 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Dissemination of knowingly false information that poses a threat to public order), in particular under subclause 2 of clause 4 which is used in a state of emergency and provides for a harsher punishment in the form of imprisonment for three to seven years. As mentioned above, the basis for the criminal prosecution and “crime” committed by Mr. Moldalimov were the video messages posted on BASE and other YouTube channels on 27 March 2020.
After the first arrest, Mr. Moldalimov was provided with an advocate who was present at the investigative actions that followed. After the interrogation, Mr. Moldalimov was let go and informed that his status in the investigation was that of a witness.
Legal assistance to Dias Moldalimov has been provided by Nurpeisov Galim Kurmanzhanovich, an advocate with the Almaty oblast collegium, with the support from the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
Prior to the criminal prosecution, Dias Moldalimov was active in drawing the attention of the public to the following issues:
- adding self-employed citizens to the list of those who are eligible for payments due to loss of income;
- additional mobilization of medical personnel to manage a pandemic;
- building a hospital for those who get sick;
- procuring ventilators.
It was obvious that Mr. Moldalimov was exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Eventually, the case was dropped.
24 June 2020