Kazakhstan launches attack on opposition

By bne IntelliNews November 22, 2012

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Kazakh prosecutors has launched a bid to outlaw two opposition parties - Alfa! DVK and Halyk Maidany. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office accused both of propagating extremism.

Spokesman Nurdaulet Suindikov also called for a ban on several opposition media outlets, Reuters reports. These include eight newspapers and 23 websites managed by the publishers of the opposition Respublika newspaper. The Vzglyad newspaper has also been targeted.

The move comes a day after a court in Aktau turned down an appeal by Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the unregistered Alga, against a seven and a half year prison sentence. Kozlov was sentenced to prison on October 8 after being found guilty of three charges, including inciting social unrest and attempting to overthrow the government. The charges were connected to Kozlov's work in support of striking oilworkers in the west Kazakhstan town of Zhanaozen.

Kozlov and other Alga leaders say the trial was politically motivated and an attempt to destroy the opposition in Kazakhstan. The party is one of the most vocal critics of Kazakhstan's government and has been denied official registration for ten years.

Human Rights Watch has urged European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, who is due to visit Central Asia in the near future, to call for the release of wrongfully imprisoned activists in the region.

"In Kazakhstan, the human rights situation has deteriorated markedly in the past two years, especially in respect for the rights to freedom of religion, association, assembly, and to a fair trial, and to be free from torture and other ill-treatment," the rights organization said in a November 22 statement.

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