Sun, 21 Jul 2019

ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's southwestern town of Zhanaozen on March 26 ordered a leader of recent protests staged by jobless young people placed in pre-trial arrest for two months.

Local activist Erzhan Elshibaev was charged with hooliganism and inflicting bodily harm in a brawl in 2017.

Elshibaev rejected the charge via video-link from a detention center. His lawyer, Kenzhe Munaitpasuly, told RFE/RL that the charge was politically motivated and linked to his clients current civil rights activities.

Munaitpasuly said that ruling will be appealed.

Police detained the 31-year-old activist on March 24.

Elshibaev was one of the leaders of protest rallies last month and in March. The protests were staged by residents in the oil-industry town who demanded jobs.

RFE/RL's correspondent Saniya Toiken, who covered the rallies, was detained three times there in recent weeks and on March 12 was fined for what local authorities said was her 'refusal to follow police orders.'

Toiken is a recipient of the 2017 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation.

Police fatally shot at least 16 people in Zhanaozen while repressing protests by oil workers in December 2011.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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