ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh activist Qanat Zhaqypov has gone on trial in the Almaty region for having links with the banned unregistered opposition Koshe (Street) party.
Zhaqypov told the court after the trial began on February 23 that he was one of the organizers of the Koshe party and actively participated in its activities until it was officially banned in May 2020.
"After the ban, I stopped any connection with the party and continued to propagate democratic values by other means not linked to the party," Zhaqypov said.
Journalists were not allowed in the courtroom due to coronavirus restrictions, and were provided with an opportunity to follow the trial online.
Zhaqypov's supporters, who also were not allowed to attend the trial, protested inside the court's hall, but left the site after officials promised them that they would be able to follow the trial online when its resumes on March 3.
A day earlier, a court in the central city of Qaraghandy sentenced another Kazakh activist, Asqar Nurmaghanov, to 18 months of "freedom limitation" -- a parole-like restriction -- after a court found him guilty of having ties with the Koshe party.
Kazakh authorities banned the party for having links with another outlawed grouping, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement.
DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities labeled DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.
Several activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed "freedom limitation" sentences for their involvement in the activities of the Koshe Party and DVK, and for taking part in rallies organized by the two groups.
Human rights groups have said that 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.