Kazakhstan to liberalize rules on protests and political parties

Hundreds of people were detained at protests during and after the June presidential election, which Tokayev won with Nazarbayev’s backing. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 December 2019

Kazakhstan to liberalize rules on protests and political parties

  • President Tokayev established a National Council of Public Trust earlier
  • New provisions also state that the minimum number of people required to start a party will be halved to 20,000

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan will drop a requirement for public protests to be approved by authorities, make it easier to form political parties, and reduce punishments for hate speech and libel, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Friday.
The reform package would ease some of the most widely criticized restrictions on political freedoms in a country which has no real opposition parties in parliament and where government critics have often faced criminal charges.
Tokayev, who took over the former Soviet republic in March when Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned after almost 30 years in power, announced his plans at a meeting of the National Council of Public Trust, an advisory body he established this year.
“We are making a serious step toward reforming the existing political system,” Tokayev said.
A new draft law on public rallies excludes provisions requiring official approval, which have effectively served as a blanket ban on protests.
Hundreds of people were detained at protests during and after the June presidential election, which Tokayev won with Nazarbayev’s backing. Dozens are also routinely held by police at smaller rallies.
In another move easing political restrictions, the minimum number of people required to start a party will be halved to 20,000, Tokayev said.
Tokayev also said offenses such as slander and libel would be removed from the criminal code and the article on hate speech would become more specific and less harsh. Both have often been used against opposition activists and government critics.
Kazakhstan’s parliament is dominated by the ruling Nur Otan party which Nazarbayev continues to lead while also remaining the head of the powerful security council and carrying the title of Yelbasy, or national leader. A parliamentary election is scheduled for 2021.


UK-born Daesh recruit can return from Syria to challenge citizenship removal

Updated 2 min 13 sec ago

UK-born Daesh recruit can return from Syria to challenge citizenship removal

  • Shamima Begum left London in 2015 when she was 15 and went to Syria with two schoolfriends
  • Britain stripped her of citizenship on security grounds

LONDON: A British-born woman who went to Syria as a schoolgirl to join Daesh can return to Britain to challenge the government’s removal of her citizenship, judges ruled on Thursday.
Shamima Begum, who was born to Bangladeshi parents, left London in 2015 when she was 15 and went to Syria via Turkey with two schoolfriends. In Syria, she married a Daesh fighter and lived in the capital of the self-declared caliphate.
She was discovered in 2019 in a detention camp in Syria, where three of her children died. Britain stripped her of citizenship on security grounds as its domestic intelligence agency considered her a security threat.
But three judges from England’s Court of Appeal unanimously agreed Begum could have a fair and effective appeal of that decision only if she were permitted to come back to Britain.
“Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns,” judge Julian Flaux wrote in a ruling. “I consider that Ms Begum’s claim for judicial review of the decision of SIAC (Special Immigration Appeals Commission)... succeeds.”
The judge said that if Begum, who is now 20, was considered a security threat, and if there was sufficient evidence, she could be arrested on her return to Britain.
Begum angered many Britons by appearing unrepentant about seeing severed heads and saying a suicide attack that killed 22 people in the English city of Manchester in 2017 was justified.
She had pleaded to be repatriated to rejoin her family in London and said she was not a threat.
Britain’s interior ministry said the court’s decision was “very disappointing” and that it would apply for permission to appeal against it.
“The government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe,” an interior ministry spokeswoman said in a statement.