Kaliolla Tursun was a legal consultant and a retired cadre from the Culture and Sports Department. Being literate in Chinese, he often helped his fellow ethnic Kazakhs file legal complaints.
At the beginning of March 2018, local authorities in Dorbiljin County beat a 43-year-old ethnic Kazakh man named Zhumakeldi Ahai to death. Zhumakeldi’s relatives asked Tursun to write a formal complaint to the authorities, which he did, and sent it to Beijing. However, the letter was intercepted and Tursun himself was arrested.
Because of Tursun’s complaint letter, his two sons were also detained and sent to a prison camp. His wife was detained soon after for asking about their detention. All three were released at the end of December 2018.
Tursun was held in various detention facilities, including the camp in Turgun Village, before being transferred to Wusu Prison. In late January 2019, the family learned that he had been sentenced to twenty years imprisonment for “challenging authority.”
In a telephone conversation with her son Akikat, who lives in Kazakstan, Tursun’s wife said that while she was in a holding cell – before being officially detained – she heard the authorities beat Kaliolla Tursun until he screamed. She yelled at the authorities, telling them not to hit him, while one of Akikat’s older brothers shouted “Stop! You’re going to kill my father!”
Two people who were in the same jail as Tursun and who made it to Kazakhstan later reported that the guards would beat Tursun until he fainted.
Even prior to his detention, Kaliolla Tursun suffered from liver cirrhosis, heart disease, and rheumatic arthritis. He had difficulty walking, his teeth had all fallen out, and he had previously had surgery on his leg for a comminuted fracture.
At the end of 2020 the family received an official letter stating that Tursun had died on 5 December, 2020, however the family believes that he actually died some time before this. Akikat alleges that his father was buried at Wusu Prison, instead of his body being returned to his family.
Turkey’s Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) has said that it had approached the UN Human Rights Council over the death of the Kazakh human rights defender in China and sought the safety of his wife and children. The IHH, in its application, alleged that the activist was murdered at a security camp.
It has demanded a probe into the death, the delivery of Kaliolla’s body, a proper autopsy, and protection for the family of the deceased activist.