March 12, 2019 / 5:36 AM / 4 months ago

Kazakhstan puts campaigner against Chinese camps under house arrest

Kazakh rights activist Serikzhan Bilash walks outside a courthouse in Almaty, Kazakhstan, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva/Files

ALMATY (Reuters) - A Kazakh court has placed an activist who campaigned on behalf of ethnic Kazakhs in China under house arrest on the charge of calling for a “jihad” against the Chinese, state prosecutors said.

Serikzhan Bilash, a naturalized Kazakh citizen born in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, leads Atajurt, a group that has worked for the release of ethnic Kazakhs from “re-education” camps where activists say more than a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held.

Police detained Bilash in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, last weekend and brought him before a court in Astana, the Central Asian nation’s capital.

In a statement issued late on Monday, the Astana prosecutor’s office said Bilash is suspected of making the jihad comment at a public event last month. He has yet to make a plea.

Prosecutors said the court placed Bilash under house arrest for two months while they prepare for trial.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Nick Macfie

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