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Kazakh Activist Handed Prison Term Amid Crackdown On Supporters Of Banned Groups

The Almaly district court in Almaty

ALMATY -- A Kazakh court has sentenced an activist to two years in prison for having ties with the banned Koshe (Street) Party amid an ongoing crackdown on supporters of the opposition group and its ally, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK).

The Almaly district court on August 31 in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, also barred Ulasbek Akhmetov from taking part in public and political activities for five years.

Akhmetov pleaded not guilty and his lawyers said they will appeal the court decision.

Akhmetov was arrested in October last year. Kazakh human rights organizations have recognized him as a political prisoner.

Many activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed lengthy prison terms or parole-like sentences in recent years for their involvement in the activities of the Koshe party and DVK, as well as for taking part in the rallies organized by the two groups.

DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities labeled DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.

Human rights groups have said Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings contradicts international standards as it requires preliminary permission from authorities to hold rallies and envisions prosecution for organizing and participating in unsanctioned rallies even though the nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of free assembly.

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