Two Kazakh Activists Get 'Freedom-Limitation' Sentences For Supporting Banned Opposition Group

NUR-SULTAN/QASKELEN, Kazakhstan -- Two Kazakh activists have been handed "freedom limitation" sentences for supporting banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement.

A court in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, on October 15, sentenced 60-year-old Serik Zhakhin to one year of freedom limitation, 100 hours of community works, and barred him from using social networks and taking part in public gatherings for two years. A freedom-limitation sentence is a suspended sentence with parole-like restrictions.

The same day, another activist, Erkin Qaziev was handed the same sentence on the same charge in the southern town of Qaskelen.

Both Zhakhin and Qaziev, 53, have rejected the charges and stated that they did not consider themselves extremists.

The two and several other activists, including five women, are currently under pretrial arrest on the charge of supporting DVK. They were arrested earlier in the summer after they took part in rallies organized by the DVK's leader, Mukhtar Ablyazov, a vocal critic of Kazakhstan's government who lives in self-imposed exile in France.

Ablyazov is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion, which he vehemently denies. His DVK movement was labeled as extremist and banned in Kazakhstan in March 2018.

Last year, a Kazakh court sentenced Ablyazov in absentia to life in prison for murder, a charge he also has denied and labeled politically motivated.

That ruling came after another Kazakh court had sentenced Ablyazov to 20 years in prison in absentia after convicting him of organizing and leading a criminal group, as well as abuse of office, embezzlement, and financial mismanagement.

Ablyazov has called all of the charges and accusations against him politically motivated.