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Kazakh Authorities Drop Charges Against NGOs After Outcry

Yevgeny Zhovtis, the head of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule Of Law, said the change in the authorities' attitude was likely due to domestic and international pressure.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh authorities have dropped charges against several nongovernmental organizations monitoring media, rights, and elections, following a sharp domestic and international outcry.

Representatives of six rights NGOs -- including the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule Of Law (KMBPCh), the Wing of Liberty Foundation, the MediaNet International Journalism Center, the International Legal Initiative, the Legal Media Center, and the Ekho civil rights group -- said on February 4 that all charges against them had been dropped and earlier decisions to suspend their activities and pay fines had been cancelled.

The head of KMBPCh, Yevgeny Zhovtis told RFE/RL on February 4 that the abrupt change in the authorities' attitude toward the NGO was most likely the result of domestic and international pressure.

"The new developments are linked to political expediency. The authorities started something that began causing political damage to their image, because of the protests. Now they have walked back as much as they could," Zhovtis said.

The activists told RFE/RL that they had not received official documentation on the decisions but that tax authorities had informed them that all previous court decisions against them in recent weeks had been annulled.

More than a dozen of nongovernmental organizations have faced inspections by tax authorities across the Central Asian country since November 2019.

On February 3, the chief of the State Revenue Committee, Marat Sultanghaziev, told RFE/RL that ongoing inspections and decisions to fine and/or suspend operations of the NGOs were "part of a routine procedure" conducted "on a regular basis."

Last month, Human Rights Watch said in a statement that alleged financial-reporting violations cast "serious doubt" on whether Kazakhstan's leadership was working to improve its human rights record.

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