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Activists Protest Kazakh Law On 'Leader Of Nation'


Journalist Sergei Duvanov and rights activist Andrei Sviridov hold signs on Almaty's main square

Journalist Sergei Duvanov and rights activist Andrei Sviridov hold signs on Almaty's main square

ALMATY -- Two Kazakh activists have protested the newly approved law declaring President Nursultan Nazarbaev the "leader of the nation" and giving him greater privileges and protection, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Independent journalist Sergei Duvanov and rights activist Andrei Sviridov held signs on Almaty's Square of the Republic on June 16 that read "The Law on The Nation's Leader Is the Nation's Shame!"

Police did not interfere in the protest action. But Duvanov and Sviridov were summoned to the court afterward, found guilty of holding an unsanctioned demonstration, and fined $480 each.

The law declaring Nazarbaev leader of the nation was printed in Kazakhstan's state-run media on June 15. It gives Nazarbaev special powers for the remainder of his life, including immunity from prosecution. It also makes it impossible for any of his or his family's land or other possessions to be confiscated.

The constitutional bill was adopted by both chambers of parliament -- the Senate and Mazhilis -- in mid-May and signed by their respective chairmen and Prime Minister Karim Masimov.

Although Nazarbaev refused to sign the bill, it becomes law in Kazakhstan without the president signing it as long as the president does not veto it.

Duvanov told journalists that "20 years from now everyone will be laughing at the law on the leader of the nation and those who are keeping silent now will feel ashamed then."

He cited a saying by American author Mark Twain: "The citizen who thinks he sees that the commonwealth's political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal; he is a traitor."
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