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Court Thwarts Kazakh Activist's Request To Serve Prison Term Closer To Home

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

ASTANA -- A court in Kazakhstan has ruled against an imprisoned activist who wants to serve his five-year sentence at a penitentiary closer to home.

In a January 29 ruling, a judge in the capital rejected Maks Boqaev's appeal against the order that sent him to a prison in northern Kazakhstan, far from his relatives in his native western region of Atyrau.

Judge Dauren Baimenov ruled that Boqaev's transfer to the northern Petropavl region was "lawful," citing what he said were frequent violations of "internal order" in prison.

Boqaev, who took part in the hearing via a video link from prison in the north, told RFE/RL last week that his relatives have to travel some 3,000 kilometers to visit him as there is no direct flight or rail connection.

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

Following the protests, President Nursultan Nazarbaev suspended 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, Boqaev and Ayan 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 Kazakh authorities to release Boqaev and Ayan, citing the freedoms of speech and assembly.

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

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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