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Kazakh Authorities Block Protests Called By Exiled Opposition Leader

Exiled opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov now resides in France.
Exiled opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov now resides in France.

NUR-SULTAN -- Authorities in Kazakhstan have attempted to block protest rallies called on September 25 by the exiled opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Ablyazov coordinates the activities of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement from exile in France.

Authorities in several cities and towns closed off streets, surrounded public squares, and prevented would-be demonstrators from going to areas where they'd been called upon to gather together for rallies.

Despite the obstacles, several people in Almaty managed to present their demands publicly.

In Nur-Sultan and Aktobe, RFE/RL correspondents reported that several protesters were detained by authorities on September 25.

In Semey, in the East Kazakhstan region, police also detained RFE/RL's Kazakh Service correspondent Khadisha Akaeva for about one hour along with journalist Daniyar Adilbekov from website.

Akaeva says she sustained minor injuries after she was taken into custody by police.

Ablyazov, the former head of BTA Bank in Kazakhstan, is wanted by authorities in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion. Ablyazov and his supporters reject the charges as politically motivated.

Ablyazov was sentenced to life in prison in absentia in 2018 after a court in Kazakhstan found him guilty of masterminding the 2004 murder of another banker.

In a separate trial in absentia in Kazakhstan that ended in 2017, Ablyazov was convicted of embezzlement, abuse of office, and organizing a criminal group. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on those charges.

Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.

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