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Kazakh authorities seek to block May 21 protests

A protester argues in front of policemen as they block a street in attempt to prevent an opposition rally in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 7 May 2016.
A protester argues in front of policemen as they block a street in attempt to prevent an opposition rally in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 7 May 2016.

REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org

Following Kazakhstan's detention of the organizers of demonstrations scheduled to take place May 21 - protests intended to maintain pressure on the government for reform - Freedom House issued the following statement:

"The Kazakhstan government's prosecution of activists and its efforts to prevent peaceful demonstrations shows its intolerance of dissent," said Robert Herman, vice president for emergency assistance and multilateral initiatives. "The government should release the activists and drop all charges against them."

Background:

Following nationwide protests earlier this month, President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced he would indefinitely delay implementation of a change in the country's Land Code that would potentially allow foreigners to lease state-owned agricultural lands for up to 25 years. Protestors were concerned that this privatization scheme would disproportionately give land to foreigners and invite widespread corruption. Building on this small victory, activists kept their plans to hold more rallies on May 21.

Those arrested and charged with "distributing leaflets for an unauthorized rally" or "sowing social discord" include Ermek Narymbai, Asylbek Amantayev, Kuat Kunbolatov, Marat Uatkan, and Suyundyk Aldabergenov.

Kazakhstan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.61 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.

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