Two More Activists Added To Political Prisoners' List In Kazakhstan

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh human rights organizations have added two activists to a list they keep of political prisoners in the oil-rich Central Asian nation, bringing the total number to 28.

The two activists added to the list on May 19 are Nurbol Onerkhan from the North Kazakhstan region and Zhanibek Zhunisov from the capital, Nur-Sultan.

Onerkhan was given a parole-like "freedom limitation" sentence last year for allegedly being involved in the activities of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement and its affiliate, the Street party. Both groups have been labeled as extremist organizations and banned in Kazakhstan.

On May 4, a court in the city of Petropavl found Onerkhan guilty of a parole violation and sent him to prison for two years.

Zhunisov was arrested in February for taking part in events organized by the Street party and is awaiting trial.

The Almaty-based Dignity, Spirit, Truth group of experts representing human rights organizations was established in 2013. Since then, the number of political prisoners in the country has risen dramatically.

In recent years, many activists across Kazakhstan have been handed prison or parole-like sentences for their involvement in the activities of DVK and the Street party, as well as for taking part in 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 DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.

Human rights groups have said Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings violates 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.

Kazakh authorities have insisted that there are no political prisoners in the country.