NUR-SULTAN — The Kazakh Prosecutor-General’s office has called on citizens not to take part in what it called “illegal” rallies planned by the banned Kazakhstan’s Democratic Choice (DVK) movement on February 22.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Bolat Dembaev’s statement announced via state-run media on February 20 warned citizens that law enforcement officers will “undertake strict measures to prevent illegal rallies,” adding that participants in “illegal protests” may face administrative and criminal charges.

“Any actions by any person to organize or take part in an unsanctioned public event will be suppressed…The Prosecutor-General’s office calls on citizens to strictly follow laws and stay away from provocations and participation in illegal public activities,” the statement said.

The leader of the DVK movement, Mukhtar Ablyazov, who has been residing in self-imposed exile in Europe for more than a decade, has called on Kazakh citizens to hold anti-government protests in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, on February 22.

Meanwhile, dozens of DVK supporters and other activists across Kazakhstan had been fined or sentenced to jail terms ranging from 5 to 15 days before the planned February 22 rallies on charges of organizing or taking part in earlier unsanctioned rallies.

According to the group, more people may be detained, fined, or jailed before the rallies as authorities look to scare off potential participants in the rallies.

Human rights proponents have said Kazakhstan’s law on public gatherings contradicts international standards as it requires preliminary permission from authorities to hold rallies and envisions prosecution for organizing and participating in unsanctioned rallies even though the nation’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of free assembly.

During a working visit to Nur-Sultan earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded what he said was a “real improvement in Kazashstan” and “real changes” since President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev came to power in March 2019 following the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbaev, who ruled the country for nearly 30 years.



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