A trial that began August 16 in Kazakhstan is expected to show where authorities in Astana demarcate the border between legitimate political expression and criminal behavior.
Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the unregistered Alga! party and a vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is the most prominent of three defendants on trial in the Caspian Sea city of Aktau in western Kazakhstan. The other two defendants are: Serik Sapargaly, an activist from the People’s Front political alliance; and Akzhanat Aminov, a former oil worker from Zhanaozen who was convicted last summer of leading an illegal strike. That labor action became the catalyst for violent clashes in December that left 15 dead, according to official figures.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.