Press release April 23, 2019
Kazakhstan: Ahead of the Presidential Election, Peaceful Political Expression Should Not Be Suppressed
Recent arrests and harsh punishments call expectations of free and fair elections into question.
In response to the arrests of activists Asya Tulesova, Beibarys Tolymbekov, and others in Kazakhstan, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The recent arrests and harsh punishments, for nothing more than unfurling a banner that calls for a fair election, challenge any expectation that a credible presidential election will take place in Kazakhstan,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “Freedom House calls for the immediate release of the jailed activists and urges the government of Kazakhstan to allow citizens to freely express their political opinions without fear of retribution.”
During the Almaty Marathon on April 21, Asya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekov hung a banner on a fence along the race’s route stating, “You cannot run from the truth” in Russian, followed by the hashtags “for free elections” in Kazakh and “I have a choice” in Russian. The two activists were found guilty of holding an unauthorized demonstration later that day by local officials and sentenced to 15 days in jail. Furthermore, three other activists who filmed the protest were each fined around $130 for participating in an unauthorized demonstration.
Upon the recent resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev after 30 years as president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, the chairman of the Senate, was sworn in to serve as president for the remainder of Nazarbayev’s term. In April, Tokayev announced that an early presidential election will be held on June 9, 2019. Tokayev was nominated on April 23 as the ruling party’s candidate for the election.