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Kazakhstan toughens punishment for separatism

The Supreme Court Photо © Vladimir Dmitriyev The Supreme Court Photо © Vladimir Dmitriyev

The new draft Criminal Code of Kazakhstan is going to contain anti-separatist clauses with a tougher punishment and broader scope. Calls for illegitimate violation of Kazakhstan's territorial integrity will be punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Tengrinews reports.

“The draft Criminal Code will have a new article that criminalizes separatist activities. Calls for illegitimate, unconstitutional changes to the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan or disintegration will be considered a criminal offense," Arman Ayaganova, head of a department at the Prosecutor General's Office, told the journalists.

“The offences under this article will be classified as grave [offences]. Part 1 provides a maximum penalty of imprisonment for up to 7 years. If the offence is committed by a person abusing his official position – then up to 10 years," she said.

She clarified that since the Internet is considered to be a type of media in Kazakhstan, the new article of the Criminal Code also applies to propaganda and public incitements of separatism made online.

Commenting the new development Almaty-based lawyer Jokhar Utebekov said: "There initially was no article on separatism in the draft Criminal Code when it was submitted to the Parliament by the Government. Deputies of the Majilis (lower chamber of the parliament) added it. (...) The legislation currently in effect prohibits only calls for violent changes to the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan (Article 170 of the Criminal Code). But the new Code will punish any promotion of separatism, including peaceful one."

"This bars the way towards federal forms of government and creation of national autonomies," he said.

The lawyer is concerned that there is no clear definition of the word disintegration in the draft law and term can be interpreted in several different ways. "It is most likely that the lawmakers want to target interregional conflicts with it. But calls like 'Stop feeding Astana' or 'Stop pumping money out of Atyrau' can be qualified as calls for disintegration, too," he said.

The news comes only a week after another amendment to the legislation envisioned a 12 year prison term for spreading rumors that disturb the public order in Kazakhstan. 

Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev

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