Trial Begins For Kazakh Land-Reform Protesters

Two participants in a mass protest against land reform in Kazakhstan have gone on trial in the western city of Atyrau.

An Atyrau court began hearings on October 12 against Maks Boqaev and Talghat Ayan, who were charged with inciting social discord, intentionally distributing false information, and illegally organizing public gatherings.

Boqaev and Ayan were detained on April 24 at a central square in Atyrau, where hundreds gathered to protest a government-approved bill on land privatization and land leasing to foreigners.

The protests in Atyrau were followed by mass protests across Kazakhstan for almost two weeks. The protesters expressed concern that the bill would allow foreigners to own farmland in Kazakhstan.

In May, President Nursultan Nazarbaev had to suspend the bill's implementation until 2017. He also created a public commission to revise the bill.

In August, Nazarbaev prolonged the moratorium on land privatization until December 2021.

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