Kazakhstan orders detention before trial for political activist

A court in Kazakhstan has placed a high-profile political activist in pre-trial detention for two months after he was first detained in early May.

Marat Zhylanbayev is the leader of Kazakhstan’s unregistered opposition party Alga Kazakhstan (“Forward Kazakhstan”), who is also a prominent marathon runner.

The 59-year-old was detained in early May for participating in an opposition rally in March.

He was expected to be released from jail earlier this week but instead a court in the capital Astana placed him in pre-trial detention for two months.

In a statement released on Thursday evening, the Astana specialized investigative court said Zhylanbayev had been detained for two months but provided no details.

Rights activists say that authorities opened a criminal case against the political activist, accusing him of taking part in an “extremist organization” and “financing terrorist or extremist activity.”

Authorities accuse the activist of having ties to Marat Ablyazov, a controversial opposition figure.

In Kazakhstan, Zhylanbayev is famous for completing some of the world’s toughest desert marathons in America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was re-elected in November, 2022, securing a landslide win in an election criticized for lacking competition.

Despite the promise of change following veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev’s rule, inequality and corruption persist and human rights violations remain a major problem, activists say.

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