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Kazakh Prosecutors Seek Eight-Year Term For Land-Reform Protesters

Kazakh activists Maks Boqaev (2nd right) and Talgat Ayan (2nd left) appear in court in Atyrau on November 18.

ATYRAU, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh prosecutors are seeking eight-year prison terms for two participants in a mass protest against the country's land reforms.

The prosecutors on November 21 asked the court in the western city of Atyrau to convict Maks Boqaev and Talghat Ayan of inciting social discord, spreading false information, and violation of the law on public gatherings.

The defendants, who went on trial on October 12, reject the charges, saying their case is politically motivated.

They were detained on April 24 in the center of Atyrau, where thousands of people had gathered to protest against a bill on land privatization and land leasing to foreigners.

The protests in Atyrau were followed by mass demonstrations across Kazakhstan for almost two weeks.

The protesters expressed concern that the bill would allow foreigners to own farmland in Kazakhstan.

Rights watchdogs have called on Kazakh authorities to release Boqaev and Ayan, saying they have a right to express their views publicly.

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