Kazakhstan: Dozens detained in anti-government protests in major cities

NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Authorities detained dozens of people on July 6 in Kazakhstan’s two largest cities, as protesters staged the latest in a series of rallies against newly elected President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

Demonstrators marching through the city streets of the capital Nur-Sultan were confronted by uniformed and plainclothes police officers and were dragged to nearby police buses.

Men appearing to be security agents tried to block RFE/RL reporters and videographers from filming the detentions, using umbrellas to block their views. Some of RFE/RL’s video and broadcast equipment was damaged by unidentified men.

Some of those detained appeared to be bystanders; one woman told RFE/RL that her 15-year-old son had been taken away by police even though the two of them were out strolling along a river embankment.

At least 70 people had been detained in Nur-Sultan by late July 6, and a similar number in the country’s commercial capital, Almaty. The independent website Vlast.kz reported up to 100 people were detained in Almaty.

Protests also occurred in Shymkent, Karaganda, and Oral, where detentions were also reported.

The protests were organized in part by the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, a banned political party that is backed by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a tycoon who has lived in exile since 2009.

A longtime outspoken opponent of Kazakhstan’s governing elites, Ablyazov has for years clashed with Kazakh authorities. Last year, a court ruled the party was an extremist organization and banned it.

The July 6 protests were the latest in a series that have occurred with more frequency since longtime ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev abruptly resigned and named a successor.

Tokayev won election as president on June 9, in a vote that international observers said was marred by “detentions of peaceful protesters, and widespread voting irregularities on election day [that] showed scant respect for democratic standards.”

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Times of Central Asia