Kazakh Activist Receives Sentence For Links With Banned Political Group

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- An activist in Kazakhstan's southern region of Turkistan has been handed a parole-like sentence for his links with a banned political movement.

The Keles district court on December 22 sentenced Marat Duisembiev to 3 1/2 years of "freedom limitation" after finding him guilty of involvement in the activities of the banned opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK).

The trial was held online due to coronavirus restrictions. Duisembiev participated in the process via a video link from a detention center in the regional capital, Shymkent.

The 44-year-old activist was arrested and charged in August after he openly called for people to take part in an unsanctioned rally organized by the DVK.

Human rights organizations in Kazakhstan recognized him as a political prisoner last month.

Duisenbiev's sentence was handed down two days after another activist, Alibek Moldin, was sentenced to one year of "freedom limitation" for being associated with the DVK-linked unregistered Koshe (Street) Party, also banned in Kazakhstan as an extremist organization.

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

Several activists have been sentenced to various prison terms and limitations in Kazakhstan in recent months for involvement in the DVK's activities, including taking part in the DVK-organized unsanctioned rallies.

Opponents of the Kazakh government have said that the crackdown on the DVK's supporters has intensified ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 10.

Human rights groups have said Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings contradicts international standards as it requires preliminary permission from authorities to hold rallies and envisions prosecution for organizing and participating in unsanctioned rallies even though the nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of free assembly.