Kazakhstan: Land Rights Activists on Trial

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Two land rights activists will go on trial in Kazakhstan on October 12, 2016, on unfounded criminal charges stemming from a peaceful protest, Human Rights Watch said today.

A court in Atyrau, western Kazakhstan, will hear the case against Maks Bokaev and Talgat Ayan on charges of “inciting social and national discord,” “disseminating false information,” and “organizing an illegal protest.”

The criminal prosecution of activists for exercising their right to peaceful protest has no place in a society that respects human rights and rule of law, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities should halt the trial immediately and free the two men.

“Maks Bokaev and Talgat Ayan should not be facing prison time for peacefully exercising their right to protest or for encouraging others to do the same,” said Mihra Rittmann, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Expressing a negative opinion about government policy is not a crime.”

Bokaev, 43, is a well-known activist, outspoken on a range of issues, including human rights and the environment. He is a member of the Atyrau regional National Preventive Mechanism, a torture prevention monitoring group under Kazakhstan’s Office of the Ombudsman. Ayan, 32, is another Atyrau-based activist who has actively opposed proposed amendments to the land code.

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