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Nurzhan Altaev (with bullhorn) and members of the El Tiregi party rally in Nur-Sultan on September 7.

NUR-SULTAN -- The leader of Kazakhstan's unregistered El Tiregi (People's Pillar) party has been charged with violating the law on public gatherings following a protest rally in the capital, Nur-Sultan.

Party activists told RFE/RL that Nurzhan Altaev was briefly detained by police at the September 7 event and charged the next day.

They said at least six El Tiregi members were sentenced to jail terms of between seven and 15 days after being detained in a group of around 25 people when police dispersed the rally.

The demonstrators were demanding the government's resignation, protesting against forced COVID-19 vaccination, and demanding the government abandon plans to build a new nuclear plant.

Two leading members of the party, Union of the Soviet-Afghan War Veterans in Kazakhstan Chairman Murat Mukhametzhanov and lawyer Nursultan Ermakhanov, were detained the day before the rally and jailed for 10 and 15 days, respectively.

Altaev quit the ruling Nur-Otan party and announced the creation of El Tiregi in late November 2020, saying no genuine opposition political forces were represented in the current parliament.

Maksim Shevchenko: "We have no freedom of speech, freedom of political discussion, or freedom of assembly."

Internet giant YouTube has blocked RFE/RL's Russian Service and Russia's Dozhd television from using a clip from an August 30 election debate shown on Russian state television in which candidate Maksim Shevchenko called for the release from prison of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and other "political prisoners."

"The domestic policies of this country are suffocating and oppressive," said Shevchenko, who heads the party list for the Party Of Freedom And Justice in the September 17-19 elections to the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament chamber. "We have no freedom of speech, freedom of political discussion, or freedom of assembly."

The debate was aired on Rossia-24 state television, which is part of the state-owned All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). VGRTK asked YouTube to block the use of the video, citing copyright infringement.

YouTube did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

In a remark posted to his own YouTube channel, Shevchenko said the Russian government does not have the right to claim copyright of "a part of the political process."

Other clips from the debates aired on Rossia-24 and Rossia-1 remain accessible on YouTube.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Russia following treatment in Germany from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on Federal Security Service operatives working at the behest of President Vladimir Putin.

He is currently serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for allegedly violating the conditions of an earlier suspended sentence on charges he says were retribution for his opposition political activity.

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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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