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Imprisoned Kazakh Activist Due For Release On Parole

Activists Talghat Ayan (left) and Maks Boqaev in Atyrau in October 2016

A court in Kazakhstan has authorized the release of Talghat Ayan, an activist imprisoned for his role in protests in 2016 against a government plan for the privatization of land, according to Ayan's father -- who is also his lawyer.

Tengizbai Ayanov told RFE/RL that the court in the northwestern city of Aqtobe ruled on April 13 that Ayan was eligible to be released on parole. The ruling will come into force on April 29, he said.

Ayan and fellow activist Maks Boqaev were detained in the western city of Atyrau in April 2016 as thousands gathered to protest against a bill on land privatization and the leasing of land to foreigners. The protest was followed by similar rallies across the country.

Following the protests, President Nursultan Nazarbaev suspended the bill's implementation and created a public commission to revise the legislation. In August 2016, Nazarbaev prolonged the moratorium on land privatization until December 2021.

In November 2016, Ayan and Boqaev were convicted of inciting social unrest, spreading false information, and violating the law on public gatherings, and sentenced to five years in prison each. They contend the trial was politically motivated.

Western governments and rights watchdogs have called on the Kazakh authorities to release Ayan and Boqaev, citing the freedoms of speech and assembly.

Rights groups say that Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian state since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential political challengers.

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