Kazakh Activists Mark Independence Day With Protests

NUR-SULTAN/ALMATY — Dozens of Kazakh opposition and civil rights activists have gathered in the center of the capital, Nur-Sultan, and the country’s biggest city, Almaty, to call for more rights and demand that all political prisoners be released.

More than 100 people are protesting in Almaty and dozens more in Nur-Sultan on December 16, Kazakhstan’s Independence Day.

The date also coincides with the 33rd anniversary of mass anti-Soviet demonstrations in Kazakhstan’s former capital, Almaty, and the eighth anniversary of a deadly police crackdown against protests by oil workers in the southwestern town of Zhanaozen.

The protesters in Almaty and Nur-Sultan chanted slogans such as, “Wake up, Kazakhstan.”

Local officials called on the demonstrators to stop the rallies, saying they were unsanctioned.

About a dozen people, including journalists, were detained by police across Kazakhstan ahead of the demonstrations.

The opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement established by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive tycoon and opposition politician, had announced plans to organize rallies in the two cities and elsewhere in Kazakhstan.

A court in Kazakhstan has banned the DVK movement, branding it an extremist organization.

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