Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on Kazakhstan to free activists who have been jailed ahead of planned nationwide protests on May 21.
"No one should be locked up for simply wanting to attend a peaceful protest," said Mihra Rittmann, Europe and Central Asia researcher at HRW, in a May 19 statement.
"Kazakh authorities should immediately free everyone rounded up in connection with the protest plans, allow the May 21 protests to take place, and move to amend the repressive law on public assemblies," she added.
In recent days, Kazakh courts have handed down short jail sentences to several activists in Astana, Almaty, and other cities, while police searched the homes and offices of government opponents, according to activists and authorities.
Hundreds of people have protested in several cities in recent weeks against controversial new legislation on the privatization of agricultural land.