ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, has sentenced noted opposition activist Erlan Faizullaev to 15 days in jail for allegedly participating in a rally last month, his third conviction in the past six months.
Faizullaev was found guilty on December 7 of violating the law on mass gatherings by taking part in an unsanctioned rally demanding political reforms late last month in a park in Almaty. Faizullaev pleaded not guilty, saying that he was in the area to attend a concert that had nothing to do with the rally.
Earlier in November, the 39-year-old activist, along with two other opposition activists, was sentenced to five days in jail on charge of disobedience to police, while in June he was sentenced to 18 months of parole-like restricted freedom for supporting the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement and its associated Koshe (Street) party.
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 rallies organized by the two groups.
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.
Kazakh authorities have insisted there are no political prisoners in the Central Asian country.