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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

1,000 Defy Ban to Rally in Almaty

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- About 1,000 demonstrators defied truncheon-wielding riot police Sunday in Kazakh stan's largest city, pushing ahead with a banned march to the main square to commemorate a slain opposition leader.

The protest was held in memory of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, a leader of the opposition Nagyz Ak Zhol party, who was abducted and killed along with his driver and bodyguard earlier this month in what his supporters call a politically motivated slaying.

The opposition has claimed high-level government involvement in the killing, in which five security service officers and the head of the Senate administration have been arrested as suspects.

At Sunday's rally -- the first anti-government demonstration in 20 years to be held at Respublika Square in the former capital, Almaty -- opposition supporters demanded that those responsible for the murder be brought to account. Some called for President Nursultan Nazarbayev's resignation.

"Authorities have lost people's trust," said opposition activist Zauresh Battalova. "Nazarbayev must go!"

Some demonstrators' banners demanded, "Who does the security service serve, killers or people?" and called on "Nazarbayev to bring to account your watchdogs!"

The demonstrators broke through police lines several times during their 15-minute march to Respublika Square, as authorities warned through megaphones that the demonstration was not legally permitted.

The protest ended without incident after about 90 minutes.

Sarsenbayev, a former government minister and ambassador to Russia, was the second prominent government critic to be killed in the past three months. Three months ago, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, an outspoken critic of the president and a former regional governor and emergencies minister, died from multiple gunshot wounds. Authorities ruled the death a suicide.

Opposition leaders have called for Nazarbayev's daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, and son-in-law to be questioned over Sarsenbayev's killing.