'The protest said nothing and, at the same time, so much about Kazakhstan, where voters will on Sunday take part in an election void of any real meaning.
Aslan Sagutdinov last month stood in the main square in the northwestern city of Uralsk and held up an blank placard.
Mr Sagutdinov said he wanted to prove that people in Kazakhstan, an oil-rich former Soviet state in Central Asia, have no right to protest.
And so it proved: police detained him within minutes.
“He showed that it doesn't matter what you protest against, the act of protesting is something not to be tolerated,” said activist Asya Tulesova.
A few days before Mr Sagutdinov’s protest, Ms Tulesova herself unfurled a banner at the Almaty marathon reading “You can’t run from the truth” - and was promptly sentenced to 15 days in prison.
Only officially sanctioned protests are allowed and even these tend to end up with mass detentions. The press is muzzled; opposition voices rarely heard.
“On the surface everything here is fine, and Almaty is a great place to live, but there are a lot of problems with corruption, with the education system, with the judicial system,” Ms Tulesova said.
In Kazakhstan's 28-year post-Soviet history this is the first time that Nursultan Nazarayev, 78, is not on the ballot.
He retired as president in March, although he said he would continue to run the country from his position as head of the National Security Council.'
Read more: As Kazakhstan goes to the polls, even a blank placard is enough to get you arrested
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