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Jailed Kazakh Human Rights Activist Released On Furlough

Kazakh human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis

Kazakh human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis

OSKEMEN, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's most prominent human rights activist, who is serving a four-year prison term over a fatal road accident, has been released from a low security labor camp on furlough for the first time, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Yevgeny Zhovtis told RFE/RL that his family members arrived in the eastern city of Oskemen on May 27, and he will spend 10 days with them in an apartment rented by his wife, Svetlana Vitkovskaya.

Zhovtis, head of the Almaty-based Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights, was sentenced in September 2009 for killing a pedestrian in a car accident.

An initial police investigation that found him not responsible for the accident was later overturned. His supporters say the authorities used the case to put pressure on Zhovtis and punish him for his activities.

In November, Zhovtis complained that 100 of the 130 inmates in the camp work outside, but that he is not allowed to do so for political reasons.

He said the labor camp administration does everything possible to prevent any exchange of information between himself and people outside the prison.

Last year, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee awarded Zhovtis its Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award 2010, describing him as "one of the most significant human rights defenders in Kazakhstan for two decades."

Read more in Kazakh here