Two More Kazakh Activists Sentenced For Links To Banned Political Groups

TARAZ, Kazakhstan — A court in southern Kazakhstan has handed parole-like sentences to two women for their links with the banned organizations Koshe (Street) Party and the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement amid an ongoing crackdown on individuals supporting the two opposition groups.

On March 4, a city court in Taraz sentenced both Nazira Lesova and Nazira Lepesova to two years of “freedom limitation” after finding them guilty of organizing and participating in the activities of the groups. Lepesova was also sentenced to 100 hours of community work.

Both women rejected the charges, calling them politically motivated. They also said they would the rulings.

Two days earlier, the same court sentenced another activist, Zhazira Qambarova, to two years of “freedom limitation” on the same charge.

Several activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed “freedom limitation” sentences for their involvement in the activities of the Koshe Party and DVK, as well as for taking part in rallies organized by the two groups.

The DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities labeled the DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.

Human rights groups have said that Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings contradicts international standards as it requires preliminary permission from authorities to hold rallies.

It also envisions prosecution for organizing and attending unsanctioned demonstrations even though the nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of free assembly.