Lawyer Ghalym Nurpeiisov said the charges look trumped-up to justify the authorities' claims about external forces trying to disrupt the election.
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Two Kazakh men detained last week along with five other people on suspicion of planning "riots to seize power" on the day of an early presidential election have been sent to pretrial detention for two months.
Lawyer Ghalym Nurpeiisov told RFE/RL on November 22 that he visited his clients, Aidos Ilipbaev and Aqylzhan Qisymbaev, in a detention center in Almaty.
"They both reject the charges, saying they do not understand the charges and consider them as wrong and damaging their reputation," Nurpeiisov said.
He added that the charges look trumped-up to justify the authorities' claims about external forces linked to the self-exiled former banker and outspoken critic of Kazakhstan's government, Mukhtar Ablyazov, who allegedly tried to disrupt the election.
The National Security Committee said on November 17 that its officers detained seven people suspected of planning to organize "riots to seize power" during the early presidential poll on November 20.
The statement said the group was not only organizing large-scale riots but also planning to attack administrative buildings and law enforcement offices using arms and projectiles. Weapons confiscated include Kalashnikov assault rifles, sawn-off shotguns, ammunition, and materials for Molotov cocktails as well as walkie-talkies, it said. Aidos Ilipbaev's brother, Almas, told RFE/RL that "some 20 masked men rushed into my brother's house on November 17 and took him way as if he was a criminal." "They confiscated a kitchen knife and an air gun that has been used to shoot mice and pigeons," Almas Ilipbaev said. Aqylzhan Qisymbaev is one of many activists who was shot and arrested during the unprecedented anti-government protests in January that were violently dispersed by police and security forces, leaving at least 238 people, including 19 law enforcement officers, dead. Qisymbaev, who was released weeks later, claims he was tortured while in custody. He has taken part in numerous rallies since January, demanding the police officers involved in shooting and torturing him be held responsible. Two of the five people detained along with Ilipbaev and Qisymbaev last week were released from custody but ordered not leave the city while the investigation is ongoing. They refused to talk to RFE/RL, saying they had been ordered not to talk about the case. Pretrial restrictions for the other three people will be decided by a court later. Incumbent President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has been declared the winner of the election, cementing his grip on power months after the January protests.
The unrest in January occurred after a peaceful demonstration in the western region of Manghystau over a fuel price hike tapped into deep-seated resentment of the country's leadership, leading to widespread protests.
Thousands of people were detained during and after the protests, which Toqaev said were caused by "20,000 terrorists" from abroad, a claim for which authorities have provided no evidence. Human rights groups have provided evidence that peaceful demonstrators and people who had nothing to do with the protests were among those killed by law enforcement and military personnel. Weeks before the poll, Kazakh authorities detained or sentenced opposition activists on various charges in an apparent move to ensure their absence at poll stations during the election.