NUR-SULTAN -- More activists have been jailed in Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan, as police keep on rounding up activists amid preparations to mark the 81st birthday of former President Nursultan Nazarbaev in the tightly controlled Central Asian country.
Police in the western city of Oral detained activist Marua Eskendirova on June 30. Hours later, a local court found her guilty of taking part in unsanctioned rallies earlier this year and sentenced her to 10 days in jail.
A day earlier, a court in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, sentenced activists Nurlan Altynbaev and Aidar Syzdyqov to 10 days in jail each, and Aizhan Abenova to 15 days in jail after finding them guilty of violating laws on holding public gatherings earlier in the year.
The activists rejected the charges.
On June 28, two other activists, Marat Musabaev and Qaiyrgeldy Nurghaliev, were sentenced to 20 and 15 days in jail respectively on the same charges.
Local activists say that the incarcerations are connected to the call by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the leader of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, for a demonstration on July 6, the day the country's capital, Nur-Sultan, is celebrated in tandem with Nazarbaev's birthday.
Kazakhstan changed the name of its capital to Nur-Sultan in 2019 to honor Nazarbaev, who ruled with an iron fist from the nation’s independence in 1991 until 2019. The renaming of the capital from Astana to Nur-Sultan sparked protests across the country at the time.
Nazarbaev continues to wield considerable influence as chairman of the Security Council and enjoys almost limitless powers as elbasy -- leader of the nation.
Kazakh authorities have banned DVK and its associate, the Koshe (Street) party, labeling them as extremist organizations.
Dozens of activists have been on hunger strike in Nur-Sultan and several other cities in Kazakhstan, including Almaty, Oral, Oskemen, and Shymkent, since June 19, demanding the cancelation of court decisions to ban DVK and Koshe.
Under President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, who was handpicked by Nazarbaev, Kazakhstan continues to clamp down on the freedom of speech and harass opposition members.
Police last year detained dozens of journalists and bloggers and launched criminal cases for alleged crimes such as spreading false information and inciting the public, according to Adil Soz, a local media watchdog.