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Kazakh Police Round Up Would-Be Protesters Calling For Probe Into Activist's Death

Protesters in the capital Nur-Sultan call for an investigation into the death of a Kazakh activist.

Police in Kazakhstan have blocked access to main squares and detained dozens of people on March 1 amid opposition calls for protests to demand a thorough investigation into the recent death in custody of a prominent civil rights activist.

Organizers are also calling for the exit from politics of ex-President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who stepped down last year as head of state but remains influential through his chairmanship of an increasingly powerful Kazakh Security Council and other channels.

Police cordons, detentions, and reported call-ins for questioning kept would-be protesters from gathering at central locations in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and other cities.

Dozens Detained After Activist's Death In Kazakhstan
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WATCH: Protesters Bundled Into Police Vans

Mobile Internet also appeared to be blocked at some of the planned sites.

Forty-three-year-old activist Dulat Aghadil, a father of six, died within hours of his detention on February 24 of what officials later said was "heart failure with no traces of violence."

Protesters blame the current government and other officials -- including Nazarbaev and the system he built during nearly three decades in power -- for Aghadil's death.

RFE/RL correspondents witnessed the detentions of at least 14 people in Nur-Sultan, at least 36 people in Almaty, 15 people in Shykment, and about a dozen people in Aqtobe.

Some of the detainees shouted "Old man, go away!" as they were being taken away by police.

Police also escorted several people wearing "Press" vests away from an area near one square where a rally was planned.

Kazakh Police Detain 20 After Funeral Of Civil Rights Activist Who Died In Custody
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WATCH: Kazakh Police Detain 20 After Funeral Of Civil Rights Activist Who Died In Custody

Journalists and activists reported a handful of detentions of activists from their homes or far from expected rally points, and others reported being called for questioning or surveilled early on March 1 by security officials.

Activists intensified demands for a probe into Aghadil's last hours when a video emerged showing what appeared to be wounds on the dead man's hands and feet and bruise-like discolored areas scattered across his shoulders, back, upper arms, and other areas of the body.

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev broke his public silence on Aghadil's death in an interview on February 29, saying, "Given the public outcry, I carefully examined this matter [and] I can confidently say that, unfortunately, activist Aghadil died as a result of heart failure. To say the opposite is to deny the truth."

Aghadil had spent a combined two months in jail since his arrest in August 2019 for taking part in unsanctioned rallies, and had made headlines with an escape one day before his planned release in November 2019 in what he said was a "protest [of] my illegal arrest."

He was buried on February 27.

Friends and fellow rights defenders have questioned the official account of Aghadil's latest detention alleging he was intoxicated, saying he did not drink due to a medical condition.

They also say he had no history of heart issues.

Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General's Office warned on February 28 against participating in "illegal protests."

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