Opposition leaders protest against Nazarbayev’s rule

Kazakh police arrested three top opposition leaders on Saturday as hundreds of protesters braved a much stronger security presence to rally against President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s rule.

Nearly 1 000 protesters had gathered on the main Palace of the Republic square in the financial capital of Almaty to express outrage at the energy-rich state’s rights record under the veteran leader.

Police raided the homes of three top members of the unregistered Azat Freedom Party before the event began and hauled them off to a central police station for questioning, a party spokesperson said.

Those detained included Azat co-chairpersons Bolat Abilov and Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, who once served as speaker of the Central Asian nation’s parliament, and the group’s general secretary Amirzhan Kosanov.

They were later charged with organising an unsanctioned rally and were due to be sentenced to prison terms later in the afternoon, the party said.

Square cordoned off
Police also arrested several protesters who tried to make anti-Nazarbayev speeches before moving back and cordoning off the square instead, their 3 000-strong force backed up by crack riot offers.

“Freedom to Kazakhstan! Freedom to [Igor] Vinyavsky! Freedom to [Vladimir] Kozlov!” the crowd chanted in reference to a top opposition member and an independent newspaper editor whose jailing in January drew Western concern.

They later demanded a march on the police station where the Azat leaders were being held, but the call was muted by the overwhelming security presence that choked off the city square.

“The people are outraged and unhappy with Nazarbayev’s leadership,” said Rysbek Sarsenbayuly, a newspaper editor whose brother was killed in 2006 while speaking out against Nazarbayev’s rule.

He said the next rally would be held on the same square on March 24 to mark the 100-day anniversary of oil district riots that left 16 dead and have become the rallying call for those unhappy with Nazarbayev’s rule.

List of charges
Abilov had already been jailed for 18 days for helping organise a similar unsanctioned event held on January 28 to protest the outcome of parliamentary elections in which the opposition won no seats.

Saturday’s event saw protesters read out a full list of charges against Nazarbayev, from ordering the police to shoot on demonstrators in December’s riots to falsifying elections and then ordering a new security clampdown.

The outbreak of protests and accompanying social tensions are a worrying sign for Central Asia’s largest economy, which has been a magnet for foreign investors and the volatile region’s most stable state.

Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan party won almost 81% of the vote in January 15 polls that international observers said failed to meet “fundamental principles of democratic elections”.

The president defended his human rights record earlier this month while paying a visit to Germany, where he underwent what his office called a ‘planned medical check-up’ last year.

“I am of the opinion that what we have achieved is already a lot,” he told reporters after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. –AFP

Shan Lo
Guest Author
Sayara Ma
Guest Author

Seven lean years in the Northern Cape

As the Karoo hopes for an end to its worst drought in a generation, the region’s history may hold important lessons for its future

February 11 1990: Mandela’s media conquest

Nelson Mandela’s release from prison was also South Africa’s first ‘media event’. And, despite the NP’s, and the SABC’s, attempt to control the narrative, the force of Madiba’s personality meant that he emerged as a celebrity

Strike-off case pulls in judge

Judge Mushtak Parker is implicated in an application to strike off his former partners. He is also involved in the fight between the Western Cape high court’s judge president and his deputy

One strike and you’re out – registrar tells unions

A municipal workers’ union is the first to be sanctioned for not following the new rule when deciding whether to go on strike

Press Releases

Response to the report of the independent assessors

VUT welcomes the publishing of the report of the independent assessors to investigate concerns of poor governance, leadership, management, corruption and fraud at the university.

NWU student receives international award

Carol-Mari Schulz received the Bachelor of Health Sciences in Occupational Hygiene Top Achiever Award.

Academic programme resumes at all campuses

Lectures, practicals, seminars and tutorials will all resume today as per specific academic timetables.

Strategic social investments are a catalyst for social progress

Barloworld Mbewu enables beneficiaries to move away from dependence on grant funding

We all have a part to play to make South Africa work

Powering societal progress demands partnerships between all stakeholders

So you want to be a social entrepreneur?

Do the research first; it will save money and time later

Social entrepreneurship means business

Enterprises with a cause at their core might be exactly what our economy desperately needs

Looking inwards

Businesses are finding tangible ways to give back – but only because consumers demand it