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According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have either been convicted of extremism or have been held in pretrial detention.

A Russian court in Siberia has handed a six-year prison term to a Jehovah's Witness amid an ongoing crackdown on the religious group, which has been banned in the country since 2017.

A court in the city of Krasnoyarsk sentenced 64-year-old Anatoly Gorbunov on February 2 after finding him guilty of organizing the activities of an "extremist organization."

Prosecutors sought an eight-year prison term for Gorbunov. His defense team said the court's ruling will be appealed.

The probe against Gorbunov was launched in March 2020. He was ordered not to leave the city at the time.

Since the faith was outlawed, many Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in Russia.

According to the group, dozens of Jehovah's Witnesses have either been convicted of extremism or have been held in pretrial detention.

The United States has condemned Russia's ongoing crackdown on Jehovah's Witnesses and other peaceful religious minorities.

For decades, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been viewed with suspicion in Russia, where the dominant Orthodox Church is championed by President Vladimir Putin.

The Christian group is known for door-to-door preaching, close Bible study, rejection of military service, and refusal to mark national and religious holidays or birthdays.

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (file photo)

NUR-SULTAN -- Lawmakers in Kazakhstan have approved a bill stripping former President Nursultan Nazarbaev of more of his lifetime privileges after deadly protests swept across the Central Asian nation last month, in part fueled by anger over the accumulation of vast wealth by his family.

On February 2, the Kazakh parliament's lower chamber, the Mazhilis, approved a recommendation by the upper house, the Senate, to revoke Nazarbaev's lifetime right to "coordinate the main direction of Kazakhstan’s domestic and foreign policies."

The Senate proposed the move last week after its members approved a Mazhilis motion to deprive the former Kazakh president of his right to be lifetime chairman of the influential Security Council and the Assembly of Kazakhstan’s People.

President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev is now expected to sign the bills into law.

After announcing his resignation in March 2019 and leaving Toqaev in his stead, Nazarbaev retained most of his political influence in the oil-rich country by enjoying almost limitless powers as elbasy (leader of the nation).

But protests in early January in the remote town of Zhanaozen over a sudden fuel-price hike quickly spread across Kazakhstan with much of the protesters' anger directed at Nazarbaev, who had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989.

The Kazakh Town Where A Statue Tumbled In January Unrest
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In his first ever public criticism of Nazarbaev on January 11, Toqaev said that, under his predecessor's leadership, many lucrative businesses and extremely rich people had appeared in Kazakhstan and it was now time for the ordinary people to receive what they deserved.

Since then, a growing number of Nazarbaev's close relatives have lost their official posts as the government moved to purge or squeeze members of the ex-president's extended family.

In the wake of the protests, Toqaev, Nazarbaev's handpicked successor, claimed that Almaty was attacked by "20,000 terrorists." He also issued a shoot-to-kill-without-warning order and invited troops from the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization to enter the country.

No officials have given direct evidence of any "terrorists" being involved in the unrest, nor have they commented on what exactly their demands were.

Kazakh authorities say that 227 people were killed during the unrest, including 19 law enforcement officers, and 12,000 others were detained.

Human rights groups insist that the number of people killed during the violence may be much higher as scores of people remain missing.

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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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