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Jailed Kazakh Journalist Allowed To Visit Ailing Mother


Imprisoned Kazakh journalist Ramazan Esergepov

Imprisoned Kazakh journalist Ramazan Esergepov

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Prominent Kazakh journalist Ramazan Esergepov has been allowed to leave prison to visit his ailing mother in an Almaty hospital, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Esergepov, the founder and chief editor of the Almaty-based newspaper "Alma-Ata Info," was sentenced in August 2009 to three years in prison for publishing state secrets in an article published in his newspaper in 2008.

Esergepov and rights organizations protested the verdict, saying the case was politically motivated. "Alma-Ata Info" was closed down after his arrest.

Esergepov, who is serving his term at a labor camp in the southern city of Taraz, was given one week to see his mother, who suffered a stroke earlier this month.

Esergepov told RFE/RL on September 21 that he asked prison officials on September 5, after he learned of his mother's stroke, to allow him to leave prison and visit her. He said they agreed to his request on September 19.

Esergepov said he has been able to communicate with his mother during their visits.

"Although she is not able to talk, she heard me, she saw me, she wept, and she smiled," he said. "I had to tell her that I was fully released and exonerated in order to give her strength and make her feel happy."

Esergepov's jail term is due to end in January.

Esergepov is one of the recipients, announced in June, of a Hellman-Hammett Grant for 2011.

The grant is administered by Human Rights Watch and awarded to writers and journalists who have been subject to political persecution and are in financial need.

Esergepov is the third Kazakh to receive a Hellman-Hammett Grant.
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