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New Arrests In Kazakhstan As Planned Protests Near

Kazakh police have arrested dozens of activists an in apparent attempt to preempt protests about land reforms.

ALMATY -- Amnesty International has called on authorities in Kazakhstan to immediately and unconditionally release about three dozen activists who have been jailed in a wave of arrests ahead of protests planned during the weekend.

The human rights group noted on May 20 that many have been arrested for merely stating that they planned to attend protests planned for May 21 or for posting information about the upcoming demonstrations on the internet.

Meanwhile, police in Almaty arrested at least five more people on May 20 -- saying that some had objects that could be used for violence or to start fires.

A police statement said authorities found "several firearms, ammunition, four grenades, and 5 million tenges ($15,000) in cash" in two apartments.

He statement said metal bars, dozens of gasoline canisters, and materials used to make Molotov cocktails were also found.

Two other activists were also sentenced on May 20 to 15 days in jail on charges of making "preparations for an unsanctioned public event."

Activists and opposition politicians in Kazakhstan are trying to organize mass protests across the country to challenge a law allowing the sale of state-owned farmland and permitting agricultural land to be leased to foreigners for up to 25 years.

State-controlled media have tried to present the protests as "illegal" and organized by "third forces from abroad."

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