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Kazakh Activist, Jailed For Unfurling Banner Calling For Fair Election, Begins Hunger Strike

Kazakh activist Asiya Tulesova (file photo)
Kazakh activist Asiya Tulesova (file photo)

Kazakh activist Asiya Tulesova, who was jailed for 15 days last week after unfurling a banner calling for a fair presidential election, is on a hunger strike behind bars, her mother says.

Zhanar Zhandosova wrote on Facebook on April 26 that her daughter has been on a hunger strike since April 23 and will continue to fast until she is released.

Tulesova and another activist, Beibarys Tolymbekov, were arrested on April 21 and later sentenced to 15 days in jail after they held political banners during a marathon race in Almaty, the country’s largest city.

The activists held a large banner that said, "You Cannot Run Away From The Truth" and featured hashtags calling for fair elections.

Tulesova and Tolymbekov were found guilty of holding an unsanctioned rally and sentenced on the same day.

Kazakh Activists Jailed For Protest Banner At Marathon
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Their arrest was filmed by three friends, Suinbike Suleimenova, Aidos Nurbolatov, and Aigul Nurbolatova, who were also arrested and later fined.

The incident came weeks after President Nursultan Nazarbaev's resignation in March after 30 years in power.

Nazarbaev still heads the ruling Nur Otan party, which on April 23 nominated interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev as its candidate in a snap election scheduled for June 9.

He is almost certain to win the election in the tightly controlled country.

The only registered political party that casts itself as an opponent of the government said on April 26 that it will boycott the vote, suggesting that participating would make it a puppet of the state.

Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbaev, an authoritarian leader who has tolerated little dissent, denied many citizens basic rights, and prolonged his power in the energy-rich nation of 18.7 million by manipulating the democratic process.

Amnesty International and Freedom House have condemned the activists' jailing and called for their immediate release.

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