Two Kazakh Activists Jailed For Democracy Banner Released A Day Early

Two Kazakh activists arrested last month and sentenced to 15 days in jail after they unfurled a banner during a marathon in Almaty calling for a fair election have been released.

Asiya Tulesova, 34, told RFE/RL that she and Beibarys Tolymbekov, 20, were released from their incarceration on May 5 after being given medical examinations.

“Beibarys had high blood pressure and it turned out that my health was also in a weakened state. Then the administration decided to let us go early. I lost weight. But now it is good,” she said.

The two were supposed to be released on May 6 and some analysts speculated authorities released them early to avoid any demonstrations at the prison when they were freed.

Several protests have been held across the country recently, an indication of growing discontent with the political system that has been dominated by Nursultan Nazarbaev since before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Many of the protesters were focused on the upcoming June 9 snap election, which was scheduled following Nazarbaev's sudden resignation in March.

Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbaev, who tolerated little dissent, denied many citizens basic rights, and prolonged his power in the energy-rich country of 18.7 million by manipulating the democratic process.

No vote held in the Central Asian country since 1991 has been deemed democratic by international observers.

Nazarbaev's surprise resignation caught many observers off-guard. However, the fact he continues to lead the ruling party and will also keep his lifetime post as chairman of the influential Security Council, has led many experts to conclude that the resignation was a legal sleight-of-hand aimed at staying in power further.

Additionally, his daughter, Darigha, who has long been an influential presidential adviser, was appointed to a powerful position as head of the Kazakh Senate.