PAVLODAR, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's northern city of Pavlodar has handed parole-like sentences to five activists for their links with the banned Koshe (Street) party amid an ongoing crackdown on individuals supporting the opposition group and its associate group, Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK).
The court on June 4 handed an 18-month "freedom limitation" sentence to Nurgul Qaluova, while four other defendants -- Daryn Khasenov, Qaliasqar Amirenov, Zhanat Zhamaliev, and Maqsut Appasov -- received one-year "freedom limitation" sentences each.
Rights organizations in the Central Asian country have recognized the five as political prisoners.
Qaluova became well-known across Kazakhstan after she took part in a protest action in October by Kazakh women, who shaved their heads to demand political freedoms and democratic reforms in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.
Several activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed lengthy prison terms or "freedom limitation" sentences in recent years for their involvement in the activities of the Koshe Party and DVK, as well as for taking part in the rallies organized by the two groups.
DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities labeled DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.
Human rights groups have said Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings contradicts international standards as it requires preliminary permission from authorities to hold rallies and envisions prosecution for organizing and participating in unsanctioned rallies, even though the nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of free assembly.