Kazakh Man Jailed, Two Women Fined For Protests Demanding Release Of Relatives In Xinjiang

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's largest city has sentenced a protester to 15 days in jail and fined two other demonstrators who picketed the Chinese Consulate for 135 days to demand the release of relatives they say are being held "illegally" in China.

The Almaty Specialized Inter-District Court on June 22 found Baibolat Kunbolat guilty of "organizing an unsanctioned rally" and sentenced him to 15 days in jail. Kunbolat has rejected the charge, saying he was not an organizer of the picket.

Two women, Gulbaran Omirali and Altynai Arakhan, were found guilty of taking part in the same "unsanctioned rally" and fined 145,000 tenges ($340) and 87,000 tenges ($200), respectively.

The day before, two other protesters were found guilty of "violating laws on public gatherings" and fined for picketing the Chinese Consulate in Almaty.

In recent years, many similar protests have taken place in Kazakhstan, with demonstrators demanding the authorities officially intervene in the situation faced by ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang.

The U.S. State Department has said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim, ethnic groups have been confined to detention centers.

China denies that the facilities are internment camps but people who have fled the province say people from the groups are undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of facilities known officially as reeducation camps.

Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs. The region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans.

Han, China's largest ethnicity, is the second-largest community in Xinjiang.