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UN Experts Urge Kazakhstan To Release Two Land-Reform Protesters

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

United Nations human rights experts have urged authorities in Kazakhstan to immediately release from prison two men who participated in a mass protest against land reforms.

A court in the western Kazakh city of Atyrau sentenced both Talghat Ayan and Maks Boqaev to five years in prison on November 28 after finding them guilty of inciting social unrest, spreading false information, and violating the law on public gatherings.

In a joint December 6 statement, the human rights experts said that Ayan and Boqaev "should have never faced prosecution for exercising their rights."

The experts included Michel Forst, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Maina Kiai, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

"Such prosecution, reportedly tainted with procedural and due process violations, runs counter to Kazakhstan’s international commitments on human rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," the joint statement added.

Ayan and Boqaev have both claimed their cases are politically motivated.

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

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