Several dozen opposition demonstrators were arrested by police in Kazakhstan on Sunday, during rallies calling for the release of “political prisoners” in this authoritarian Central Asian country.
Around 50 protesters were notably arrested in the country’s main city, Almaty, before they could even join the planned rally in a park, where mobile internet appeared to have been cut.
Several of them chanted “freedom for political prisoners!” as they were dragged to the police vans.
This mobilization comes following a European Parliament resolution calling for priority to be given to the defense of human rights in relations with Kazakhstan, where Europeans have observed a “worrying deterioration” in this area.
This non-binding resolution of February 11 denounced “systemic deficiencies in terms of respect for the freedoms of association, assembly and expression” in this former Soviet republic.
She also criticized “secret court decisions” which banned two opposition groups affiliated with former Energy Minister Mukhtar Abliazov on the grounds of “extremism”.
The Kazakh Foreign Ministry said the resolution was “initiated by hostile politicians and fueled by inaccurate information”.
The prosecution had threatened opposition activists with sentences ranging from 20 to 50 days in prison if they took part in the demonstrations planned for Sunday in several cities of this country rich in natural resources.
In a Facebook post, Mukhtar Abliazov, who fled the country in 2009, called on the Kazakhs “not to stand aside as democracies stand ready to support the Kazakh people in the fight against dictatorship.”
Wanted in his country for fraud and organizing the murder of a banker, Moukhtar Abliazov was granted political asylum in France. He denounces these accusations as politically motivated because of his opposition to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who remains a major figure in Kazakhstan’s political life.