Kazakh Activist Starts Hunger Strike In Detention

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- An activist arrested in January in Kazakhstan’s southern city of Shymkent for alleged ties with two banned opposition groups has started a hunger strike.

Nurzhan Mukhammedov's wife, Baghila Tekebaeva, told RFE/RL that her husband started the hunger strike on April 27, demanding that the charges against him -- of being associated with the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement and the Koshe (Street) party -- be dropped.

"My husband has insisted that he has no ties with the DVK and the Koshe party. He is angry that he has been kept under arrest for four months now," Tekebaeva said.

Separately on April 27, a court in Kazakhstan's southern town of Qapshaghai rejected a request for early release filed by the activist Almat Zhumaghulov, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in December 2018 after a court convicted him and two others of planning a "holy war" because they were spreading the ideas of DVK.

Several activists in the Central Asian nation have been handed prison sentences or parole-like sentences in recent years for their support or involvement in the activities of the DVK and its associate, Koshe party, as well as for taking part in unsanctioned rallies organized by the two groups.

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 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.

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