A 46-year old in Aktobe was found guilty and sentenced to three years in a penal colony for criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin on Facebook.
Sanat Dosov — referred to in various Kazakh media sources as a “social activist” and “entrepreneur” — was a prodigious poster to Facebook until late August, presumably when he was arrested.
Dosov was charged under the infamous Article 174 of the Kazakh criminal code, which outlaws actions aimed at inciting “social, national, generic, racial, class or religious hatred” as well as the “insult of the national honour and dignity or religious feelings of citizens” and “propaganda of exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on grounds of their relation to religion, class, national, generic or racial assignment.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Article 174 is about as vague as possible and Kazakhstan’s justice system has taken advantage of that vagueness to jail several in the past two years, particularly for social media posts. Last Feburary, Bruce Pannier outlined the cases of several victims of Article 174 for RFE/RL, commenting, “Listing those who have been detained and incarcerated on this charge, one could get the impression Article 174 is being used as a tool to remove inconvenient individuals.”
Dosov’s case is novel in that he was charged for insulting the president of a country not his own. (As of December 26, 1991 — 25 years ago — Kazakhstan and Russia ceased to be part of the same country, in case you missed it.)
Ratel.kz reported in late November on Dosov’s case that the Aktobe-native’s posts criticizing and insulting Putin were what led to the charges. The article included photos of what appear to be court documents, outlining the offending posts, from late 2015 to early 2016.
For example, on December 4, 2015, Dosov shared a meme which depicted the faces of Lenin, Stalin, and Putin. A few days earlier he shared a news story from a Ukrainian site (about plans between Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia to bypass Russia in transporting goods between them) with a comment calling Putin “the enemy” and a “terrorist.” Dosov frequently shared news stories and memes critical of Putin and Russian policy, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Syria.
The post referenced in most stories about Dosov’s sentencing was, according to Ratel.kz’s images, from December 1, 2015. Dosov reportedly wrote, “Putin is ruining the country!” and that Russians needed to stop fascism in their country. (Note: I was not able to find the specific post referenced, but Facebook’s algorithms can make finding a specific post very difficult. The post, as quoted by various sources, would fit into the tone of Dosov’s other posts — for example, he calls Putin a fascist a few days later.)
According to the Aktobe Times, one of Dosov’s Facebook friends reported him to the authorities.
Dosov reportedly plead guilty and sought leniency in sentencing, due to the fact he has six children, four of which are minors. His lawyer apparently intends to appeal, arguing that Dosov committed no crime.
Meanwhile, as EurasiaNet reports, the chief editor of a Kazakh news website has fled the country, fearing prosecution. Bekzhan Idrisov’s flight is unrelated to Dosov’s case, but is worth noting as it underscores the increasing pressure being felt by those who criticize the state — be they journalists, opposition politicians, or Facebook users.
If criticizing and insulting the president of a different country results in jail time, one must wonder what comes of criticizing or insulting Nazarbayev?