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16:06, 12 July 2019

Protesters demand release of Xinjiang Kazakh activist in Almaty

AKIPRESS.COM - Dozens of people have rallied in Almaty demanding immediate release from house arrest of the leader of a group that raised concerns over the internment of ethnic Kazakhs in China's northwestern Xinjiang region, RFE/RL reports.

The protesters on July 12 called on President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to intervene to have the charge of inciting ethnic discord against Serikzhan Bilash dropped.

In February, an Almaty court found Bilash guilty of being the leader of an unregistered organization and fined him the equivalent of $670.

Atazhurt Eriktileri has been operating in Kazakhstan since 2017 without registration.

Bilash said in February that his group would continue to defend the rights of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, and vowed to try again to register the group at the Justice Ministry.

The United Nations said in August 2018 that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people of Xinjiang were being held in what it described as "counterextremism centers" in northwestern China.

The UN also said millions more had been forced into internment camps.

China says that the facilities are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society.


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