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Former Deputies Jailed as Public Assembly still Criminalised in Kazakhstan


Candidates who have disputed the March 19th parliamentary election results are filling up special detention centers for administrative convictions. For the past 30 years in Kazakhstan, attempts to protest openly in public have been met with state repression. Despite the events of January 2022, not much has changed, with the government resorting to old habits when frightened by civil unrest.

The most recent wave of civil repression began on March 20th with the arrest of Almaty-based journalist Duman Mukhamedkarim, who was detained for announcing his plan to protest the parliamentary election results. The journalist later announced, through his lawyer, that he would be going on a hunger strike for the duration of his jail term in protest.

On April 11th, laid-off oil workers from the Mangystau region of Kazakhstan arrived in Astana, intending to protest outside the Ministry of Energy. Protestors were rounded-up and forced into police vans. The General Prosecutor’s Office later reported 126 detainees and five administrative arrests. In solidarity with the detained protestors, hundreds of people gathered in the main square of Zhanaozen. In Aktau, a group of residents publicly demanded the release of the protestors. The 24-hour protest of the oil workers from Mangystau in Astana, the police breakup of the rally, and the ensuing detentions and administrative arrests of activists around Kazakhstan show that the right to public assembly is not protected by the Kazakhstani state.

In Almaty, participants of the “People’s Parliament” expressed their support for the demands of the Mangystau residents. Originally, the “People’s Parliament” was created as an alliance between candidates who disagreed with the March 19th election results and supported the right to protest publicly. However, many of the members of this newly formed alliance have already been jailed for publicly protesting. Social activist and former candidate Mukhtar Tayzhan and the former political prisoner Alnur Ulyashev were sentenced to 15 days in jail for participating in a small protest at the Republic Square on April 9th. Two more participants of the assembly, Rysbek Sarsenbayuly (also a former candidate) and Marat Turymbetov were summoned by the police. Both men had attempted to express their support for the people of Mangysau in the Republic Square.

In addition, the leader of the unregistered El Tiregi party and a former candidate and member of parliament Nurzhan Altayev was arrested in Astana on April 11th. He had also joined the calls to support detained oil workers and was then arrested for 15 days. Also on April 11th, Lukpan Akhmedyarov, editor of the independent newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, was arrested and jailed for 15 days in Uralsk. On April 9th, he had spoken at a small rally in the southern capital also in support of the oil workers. 

City administrators, in violation of the law, often deny activists permission to hold rallies under far-fetched pre-texts, despite activists compiling with all the legal requirements. Activists are then left without the possibility of finding an alternative site to hold the protest.

OSCE observers have already commented on the electoral process for the election of the head of state as failing to conform to democratic standards; their preliminary assessment of legislative elections is almost identical.