ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh human rights organizations have added five people to a list of political prisoners, bringing the total number to 29 in the oil-rich Central Asian nation.
The five individuals from different parts of the country added to the list on March 17 are Maqsut Appasov, Medet Eseneev, Abzal Qanaliev, Merei Qurbaqov, and Aidar Syzdyqov.
According to the human rights organizations' group of experts, they either were convicted or are currently under investigation on politically motivated charges, namely for supporting or taking part in the activities of opposition groups -- the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) and Koshe (Street) Party. Both parties have been labeled as extremist organizations and banned in Kazakhstan.
Bakhytzhan Toreghozhina of the Almaty-based Ar, Rukh, Khaq (Dignity, Spirit, Truth) rights group, told RFE/RL on March 18 that the group of experts representing human rights organizations was established in 2013. Since then, the number of political prisoners in the country has risen dramatically.
In recent months, many activists across Kazakhstan have been handed parole-like sentences for their involvement in the activities of the DVK and the Koshe Party, as well as for taking part in 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 violates 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.
Kazakh authorities have insisted that there are no political prisoners in the country.