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Kazakhstan Convicts Opposition Activist On Extremism Charges

Rights activist Nurbol Onerkhan

PETROPAVL, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's northern city of Petropavl has found an opposition activist guilty of participating in the activities of "an extremist group" and sentenced him to one year of freedom limitation -- a sentence with parole-like restrictions.

The Petropavl City Court on November 2 also barred Nurbol Onerkhan from taking part in any social or political activity, publishing articles in the media or on the Internet, and attending public gatherings.

Onerkhan, a 26-year-old schoolteacher, was charged last year after posting videos on social media showing unsanctioned rallies organized by the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement and the associated Koshe (Street) Party.

DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and outspoken critic of the Kazakh government.

Ablyazov, who currently resides in France, is wanted by authorities in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion. Ablyazov and his supporters reject the charges as politically motivated.

Onerkhan told RFE/RL last year that he was aware that DVK had been banned and labelled as extremist in Kazakhstan in 2018 but said that he supported the movement's program on political reforms in the country.

Several activists have been sentenced to various prison terms and limitations in Kazakhstan in recent months for involvement in the DVK's activities, including taking part in the DVK-organized unsanctioned rallies.

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.

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