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Kazakh Activist Jailed Over Homeowners' Protest

Disgruntled homeowners gather in Astana to protest.

Disgruntled homeowners gather in Astana to protest.

The leader of a Kazakh NGO has been jailed for 15 days for organizing a protest that saw hundreds of disgruntled homeowners rally in the capital, Astana, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Esenbek Okteshbaev, the leader of the Leave People's Homes Alone NGO, was sentenced today for his role in organizing a March 15 unsanctioned protest.

Andrei Tsukanov, a coordinator of the For Free Internet Movement in the central Qaraghandy region, told RFE/RL that several other activists were fined for organizing the demonstration.

The protesters came to Astana from all over Kazakhstan to complain to President Nursultan Nazarbaev about corruption in real estate.

The demonstrators were mainly mortgage holders and investors in apartment projects who complain they have been double-crossed by banks and/or developers.

The protesters said they wanted to meet Nazarbaev in his capacity as the leading candidate in the April 3 presidential election to ask him about his personal plans and those of the government to save citizens from foreclosures on their homes.

Police did not allow the protesters to approach administrative buildings in the capital. They were detained and driven away in police buses when they tried to march down streets in the city center. They were then taken to the train station and put on trains to their hometowns.

Activists of different nongovernmental organizations issued a statement today condemning the authorities' handling of the activists.

The statement demands Okteshbaev's immediate release and says that citizens have every right to meet with a presidential candidate to discuss his/her election campaign and plans.

"The fact that the citizens, who wanted to meet with the presidential candidate, were detained, forced to leave the capital, and faced trials show that the presidential election campaign is a fiction that does not give any opportunity for the voters to meet with the candidates," the statement reads.

Well-known human rights and civic activists Vadim Kuramshin, Ainur Kurmanov, Zhanna Baitelova, and Alken Kenzhebaev are among those who signed the statement.

Read more in Kazakh here