SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's southern city of Shymkent has given a parole-like sentence to an activist after convicting him on charges of having ties with two banned opposition groups.
The Qaratau district court on June 15 found 46-year-old Nurzhan Mukhammedov guilty of having ties with the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement and the Koshe (Street) party. The court also found Mukhammedov guilty of insulting traffic police. He was sentenced to two years of "freedom limitation" plus 140 hours of community service. He is also barred from being involved in public and political activities for three years. Mukhammedov took part in the trial via a videolink from a detention center due to coronavirus precautions. He denied having ties with the DVK or the Koshe party. But he admitted he had insulted traffic police, saying they were "illegally" attempting to violate his constitutional right to free movement. Mukhammedov was arrested in January and went on trial on May 18. He was released from custody after his sentence was pronounced. Mukhammedov held two hunger strikes while in detention to demand that all the charges against him be dropped. He has been fined and sentenced to jail terms ranging from five days to 15 days over his previous participation in unsanctioned rallies. Human rights organizations in Kazakhstan have recognized Mukhammedov as a political prisoner.
Several Activists Sentenced
Kazakhstan's courts have issued prison sentences or parole-like sentences to several activists in recent years for their support or involvement in the activities of the DVK and the Koshe party. Other activists have also spent time in jail for taking part in unsanctioned rallies that were organized by the two groups. The DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities banned the DVK as an extremist group in March 2018. Human rights groups say Kazakhstan's law on public gatherings contradicts international standards. The law requires rally organizers to obtain preliminary permission from authorities. It also calls for the prosecution of those who organize or participate in unsanctioned rallies -- despite constitutional guarantees stating that citizens have the right to freely assemble.