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More Kazakh Activists Sentenced Over Ties To Fugitive Banker's Banned Political Group

Asqar Qalasov at a protest in June 2020.
Asqar Qalasov at a protest in June 2020.

AQTOBE, Kazakhstan -- A court in northwestern Kazakhstan has sentenced an activist to two years of parole-like terms over ties to the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement amid an ongoing crackdown on support for that group and the associated Koshe (Street) party.

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

Judge Zhanas Quanyshev, in a court in the city of Aqtobe on August 4, also barred the convicted man, Asqar Qalasov, from using social networks for the duration of his sentence.

Qalasov was detained in late March and placed under house arrest.

He rejects the charges against him, calling them politically motivated.

Also on August 4, another court in the Central Asian nation's southern city of Shymkent rejected an appeal filed by activist Nurzhan Mukhammedov against a similar sentence for his association with the DVK.

Mukhammedov was sentenced to two years of curbs on his freedom on the same charge in June.

He told RFE/RL that he will appeal the sentence.

A day earlier, a court in Kazakhstan's capital, Nur-Sultan, sentenced activist Erbol Eskhozhin to 2 1/2 years in prison over his alleged links to the DVK.

A number of Kazakh activists have been convicted in recent years for their involvement in the activities of the DVK and the Koshe Party and for participation in rallies organized by those groups.

Kazakhstan banned the DVK in March 2018 after deeming it an extremist organization.

Human rights groups have said Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings violates international standards as it requires preliminary permission from authorities to hold rallies and envisions prosecution for unsanctioned rallies, despite constitutional guarantees on the right to free assembly.

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