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Kazakh President Signs Into Law Long-Debated Bill Banning Land Ownership By Foreigners

Demonstrators rally against land reform rally in Almaty on April 24.
Demonstrators rally against land reform rally in Almaty on April 24.

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has signed into law a long-debated and sensitive bill that bans selling and leasing agricultural land to foreigners in the oil-rich Central Asian state.

According to the law, foreigners, stateless individuals, foreign companies, Kazakh companies with foreign ownership, international organizations, and scientific groups that have the involvement of foreign countries cannot own or lease agricultural land in Kazakhstan.

The bill was proposed by Toqaev in February as a five-year moratorium on selling and leasing Kazakh agricultural land to foreigners introduced in 2016 amid mass protests was expected to expire later in summer.

The moratorium was announced after thousands demonstrated in unprecedented rallies across the tightly controlled country, protesting the government's plan to attract foreign investment into the agriculture sector by opening up the market.

The protests stopped after the government withdrew the plan, but two men who organized the largest rally in the western city of Atyrau, Talghat Ayan and Maks Boqaev, were sentenced to five years in prison each after being found guilty of inciting social discord, knowingly spreading false information, and violating the law on public assembly.

Ayan was released on parole in April 2018, and Boqaev was released in February this year,

New mass protests erupted across Kazakhstan in March and April this year after a clause was introduced to the bill that would allow foreigners and foreign companies to lease Kazakh forests for up to 25 years.

Lawmakers removed the clause on May 5.

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