Kazakhstan: Police crack down on anti-government rallies
The demonstrations were organized at the behest of foreign-based opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov.
A rights group in Kazakhstan has said numerous people were detained by police on May 10 as they attempted to mount an anti-government demonstration.
The Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law said around 50 people gathered for the rally in the city Almaty before police began to detain them.
Other smaller rallies also took place in the capital, Astana, and Shymkent. Some participants in those gatherings were also reportedly detained.
Among those held by the police in Almaty were blogger Askhat Bersalimov, rights activist Yerlan Kaliyev and the parents of a businessman arrested on corruption charges that his supporters say are political motivated. Another opposition activist, Zhasaral Kuanyshalin, was intercepted as he was leaving his home, the rights group said.
Several of the people detained were subsequently released from police stations, an observer for the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law reported.
The demonstrations were held at the behest of exiled opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov, who urged people to go onto the streets in an appeal posted on his Facebook page one day earlier. Ablyazov, who was in June 2017 sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison on multiple charges, said the rallies would be a gesture of support for political prisoners and a protest against torture in Kazakhstan’s prisons.
Ablyazov posted several brief snippets of video footage of the rallies throughout the day. Many of them showed how police used often strong-armed techniques to drag away demonstrators.
Kazakhstan has been engaged in a years-long rearguard battle against Ablyazov’s gadfly methods. Although the former banker does not appear to enjoy a level of support inside the country that would support the notion he poses a real threat to the survival of the government, authorities have deployed multiple, often disproportionate, means to neutralize him.
Millions of dollars have been spent on unsuccessful campaigns to have him deported from his European havens.
In the most recent anti-Ablyazov offensive, a court in Kazakhstan in March ruled to designate his Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, or DVK, movement an extremist organization. That decision made it illegal to reproduce or display any material promoting the movement. It also in effect has forced media, which has already almost universally been cowed into submission, to exercise self-censorship by refraining from alluding to Ablyazov or the DVK for fear of falling foul of highly punitive anti-extremism legislation.
The extreme paranoia of the government has produced sometimes deeply embarrassing results.
When Ablyazov issued an appeal in March for his supporters to go out onto streets with blue balloons during Nowruz festivities in Astana, police panicked. In an excess of zeal, officers hauled in multiple unsuspecting people, including children, brandishing balloons of the offending color, which also happens to be the same shade as Kazakhstan’s national flag.