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Asiya Tulesova (left) and Beibarys Tolymbekov before their trial at court in Almaty on April 21.

Two Kazakh activists arrested last month and sentenced to 15 days in jail after they unfurled a banner during a marathon in Almaty calling for a fair election have been released.

Asiya Tulesova, 34, told RFE/RL that she and Beibarys Tolymbekov, 20, were released from their incarceration on May 5 after being given medical examinations.

“Beibarys had high blood pressure and it turned out that my health was also in a weakened state. Then the administration decided to let us go early. I lost weight. But now it is good,” she said.

The two were supposed to be released on May 6 and some analysts speculated authorities released them early to avoid any demonstrations at the prison when they were freed.

Several protests have been held across the country recently, an indication of growing discontent with the political system that has been dominated by Nursultan Nazarbaev since before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Many of the protesters were focused on the upcoming June 9 snap election, which was scheduled following Nazarbaev's sudden resignation in March.

Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbaev, who tolerated little dissent, denied many citizens basic rights, and prolonged his power in the energy-rich country of 18.7 million by manipulating the democratic process.

No vote held in the Central Asian country since 1991 has been deemed democratic by international observers.

Nazarbaev's surprise resignation caught many observers off-guard. However, the fact he continues to lead the ruling party and will also keep his lifetime post as chairman of the influential Security Council, has led many experts to conclude that the resignation was a legal sleight-of-hand aimed at staying in power further.

Additionally, his daughter, Darigha, who has long been an influential presidential adviser, was appointed to a powerful position as head of the Kazakh Senate.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s younger brother, Hossein Fereidoun (file photo)

The brother of Iranian President Hassan Rohani has been sentenced to prison by a court following his trial on charges of corruption.

Hossein Fereidoun, considered to be a close confidant of the president, was sentenced on May 4 to an unspecified prison term, according to Iranian media.

"This person Hossein Fereidoun was found not guilty on some charges, while he was sentenced to prison on other accusations," the official news agency IRNA quoted judiciary official Hamidreza Hosseini as saying.

The semiofficial Mehr and ISNA news agencies also reported the verdict, which can be appealed.

Fereidoun, a top adviser to Rohani, was arrested in 2017 and quickly released on bail following long-running corruption allegations, with the judiciary saying at the time that he was the subject of "multiple investigations."

Conservatives had demanded that Fereidoun be put on trial, accusing him of financial-corruption charges.

Rohani's supporters have suggested that the case against Fereidoun was part of efforts by hard-liners to undermine the Iranian president.

Fereidoun and his brother do not share the same name because Rohani, who is considered a relative moderate within Iran's political system, changed his surname decades ago.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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