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Kazakh activist Erbol Eskhozhin (file photo)

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh activist Erbol Eskhozhin has gone on trial over his alleged links with the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement as authorities continue to roundup supporters of the group that is led from abroad by former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov.

The Saryarqa district court in the Kazakh capital began the hearing on April 14 as about a dozen of activists rallied in the city, demanding Eskhozhin's release and expressing support for dozens of other activists sentenced for backing the DVK in recent years.

The trial is being held online due to coronavirus precautions.

Eskhozhin, 44, was arrested in December 2020 and charged with taking part in the activities of the DVK, which was labelled as extremist and banned in the country in 2018.

Last December, the charge was changed to organizing activities for the DVK, which is an offense punishable by up to six years in prison. Eskhozhin has rejected the charge as politically motivated.

In recent years, many activists across the Central Asian nation have been convicted for their involvement in the activities of the DVK and its associated grouping, the Koshe (Street) Party.

Last week, human rights activists in Kazakhstan’s second-largest city, Almaty, expressed concerns over the situation faced by another jailed DVK supporter, Aset Abishev, who, the activists said, was placed in solitary confinement after he cut his wrists to protest his treatment by guards and overall prison conditions.

Aleksandr Vorobiov was arrested on July 2019. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Aleksandr Vorobyov, who worked as an assistant to President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Urals region, has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison on a charge of high treason.

A Moscow court sentenced Vorobyov on April 14 after a trial that was held behind closed doors due to classified materials in the case.

Vorobyov was detained in July 2019 and fired shortly after the arrest.

Aide To Putin's Urals Envoy Faces Treason Charges
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His chief, Nikolai Tsukanov, left the post of presidential envoy in the Ural Federal District more than a year after Vorobyov was charged with high treason.

At the time, Tsukanov was a member of Russia's Security Council, the State Border Commission, and the Presidential Council on Priority Projects. He quit those posts after his aide's arrest.

Media reports at the time said that investigators had found a Polish passport and a recording device in Vorobyov's possession at the time of his arrest.

Vorobyov was stripped of the rank of state councilor of the third degree, which corresponds to the military rank of major general, and expelled from the ruling United Russia party.

The affair was the first publicly known case of a government official being arrested on suspicions of treason in post-Soviet Russia.

Since then, the number of cases of alleged high treason in general has increased dramatically in Russia.

Former Russian Journalist Reportedly Charged With Aiding Czech, U.S. Spy Agencies
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One of the latest high-profile high treason cases involves Ivan Safronov, a journalist and an aide to the Russian Roskosmos space agency chief, Dmitry Rogozin.

Safronov was arrested on July 7 and later charged with passing classified material to the Czech Republic. He has denied the charge.

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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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