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Kazakh Opposition Leaders Forced To Leave Town

Тохтара Аубакирова прогнали с улицы его имени
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WATCH: A scuffle breaks out between police officers and party activists in this video from RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

QARQARALY, Kazakhstan -- Police forced leading members of the Kazakh opposition Azat Social Democratic Party to leave the central Kazakh town of Qarqaraly where they went to meet with supporters, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Party co-chairman Bolat Abilov and party presidium members Baltash Tursumbaev and Tokhtar Aubakirov arrived in Qarqaraly, in Qaraghandy Oblast, on June 20 to meet with about 100 local activists.

But when they arrived in the city center police apparently tried to detain Abilov, prompting a scuffle between officers and party activists. Abilov and his colleagues then left the city.

The incident took place on the street named after Aubakirov, who is Kazakhstan's first cosmonaut and has been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of Kazakhstan awards.

Aubakirov, 63, said police did not give a reason for their actions. He after the incident that he never thought authorities in his hometown would meet him as an enemy on the street renamed in his honor.

"There was a time when local authorities were more than happy to greet me here and crowds of people gathered here to say hello," he said. "It is a shame and pity that things are so different now."

Aubakirov was born in Qarqaraly and the street was named after him to commemorate his first flight into orbit on October 2, 1991. He joined the opposition Azat Social Democratic Party and became a member of its presidium last year.