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Kazakhstan Jails Two Land-Reform Protesters

Activists Maks Boqaev (right) and Talghat Ayan in the courtroom in Atyrau on October 28
Activists Maks Boqaev (right) and Talghat Ayan in the courtroom in Atyrau on October 28

ATYRAU, Kazakhstan -- A court in the western Kazakh city of Atyrau has sentenced two participants in a mass protest against land reforms to five years in prison each.

The court on November 28 convicted Maks Boqaev and Talghat Ayan of inciting social unrest, spreading false information, and violating the law on public gatherings, and sentenced them the same day.

The defendants, who went on trial on October 12, have rejected 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 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 the right to express their views publicly.

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