Kazakhstan recently experienced its Pussy Riot moment. But in sharp contrast to the torrent of international criticism that followed last summer’s conviction of three mischievous punk rockers in Moscow, the guilty verdict against a prominent opposition politician in Kazakhstan generated just a trickle of disapproval in the West.
Vladimir Kozlov, the leader of the unregistered Alga! party and a vocal critic of Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, received a seven-and-a-half-year prison term on October 8. Kozlov was found guilty of seeking to overthrow the government and fomenting unrest in the western city of Zhanaozen last December. His co-defendants, political activist Serik Sapargaly and Akzhanat Aminov, a former oil worker from Zhanaozen, received suspended sentences. The official death toll from Zhanaozen-related unrest reached 15.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.