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Kazakh Referendum Opponents Fined For 'Burial' Protest

ALMATY -- Five activists have been fined over a protest against a proposed referendum to extend President Nursultan Nazarbaev's rule, in which they staged a mock "burial of democracy," RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

A Kazakh court today found the five guilty of holding an unsanctioned public event and fined each the equivalent of some $200.

The five are members of the Rukh pen Til (Spirit and Language) nongovernmental organization who were detained after the January 11 protest in Almaty.

One of the five -- all of whom are university students -- is a teenager.

Rukh pen Til member and journalist Inga Imanbaeva told RFE/RL during the protest that the idea of holding a national referendum to extend Nazarbaev's presidential term until 2020 is one of the most "shameful and disgraceful ideas" ever suggested in Kazakhstan.

The idea for the referendum was raised last month by a self-styled "initiative group" headed by academic Erlan Sydyqov.

Nazarbaev, whose current term is due to end in 2012, rejected the referendum idea last week.

But it is expected to be discussed at a joint session of Kazakh parliament's upper and lower chambers (Senate and Mazhilis) on January 14.

Read in Kazakh here