ORAL, Kazakhstan — A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced an activist to one year of restricted freedom for openly supporting the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement and its associated party, the unregistered Koshe (Street) party, amid an ongoing crackdown on supporters of the two opposition groups.
A court in the northwestern city of Oral sentenced Orynbai Oqasov on November 18 after finding him guilty of taking part in unsanctioned rallies organized by the DVK and Koshe earlier this year and supporting such rallies on social networks.
Oqasov rejected the charges, saying he used his right to express his thoughts and opinions. His lawyer, Zhanbolat Kolzhanov, said the court’s ruling will be appealed.
Many activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed lengthy prison terms or parole-like restricted freedom sentences in recent years for their involvement in the activities of the DVK and the Koshe party, as well as for taking part in the rallies organized by the two groups.
The 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.
The Kazakh authorities have insisted there are no political prisoners in the Central Asian country.