Land-law protesters face criminal charges in Kazakhstan

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ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor-General’s Office on May 27 said that individuals recently arrested for taking part or calling for unsanctioned mass protests are facing charges of inciting ethnic discord and of attempting to seize power by force, RFE/RL reported.

Kazakh authorities detained hundreds of activists ahead of nationwide protests against new legislation on the privatization of agricultural land planned for May 21.

Many activists were later released, but a number of them were fined or sent to prison for 10-15 days. Others were sent to pretrial detention as criminal charges against them are pending.

The opposition activists called for rallies to be held across the country to protest proposed changes to the Land Code that would allow farmland to be sold and would allow foreign investors to lease land for agricultural use for up to 25 years.

Activists say they fear land auctions would not be transparent, paving the way for corruption. They planned to hold large demonstrations on May 21 despite the government’s crackdown and President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s May 5 order to postpone the implementation of the controversial legislation until 2017 in an apparent attempt to appease its opponents and avert further protests.

The Kazakh government has also set up a commission to review the land-reform plans and invited some opposition figures to join it.

Sergey Kwan

TCA