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Kazakh Diaspora Leader Freed In Turkmenistan

Bisengul Begdesinov, a prominent member of the Kazakh community in Turkmenistan

Bisengul Begdesinov, a prominent member of the Kazakh community in Turkmenistan

ASHGABAT -- A prominent leader of the ethnic Kazakh community in Turkmenistan has been conditionally released from detention in a trial in Ashgabat on charges including fraud, RFE/RL's Turkmen and Kazakh services report.

Ashgabat's Kopetdag district court announced late on May 13 that one of the fraud and bribery charges against Bisengul Begdesinov had been dropped and he was found guilty in the second but received a suspended sentence.

Begdesinov, 56, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service by phone after his release that he was home and in a state of shock. He said he didn't hear the precise length of his suspended prison term.

"I was working very hard at great risk, doing my best to help our local Kazakhs," Begdesinov said. "The most regrettable thing is that our Kazakhs gave testimony against me. I don't know what they have written. We need to talk about it in a calm atmosphere. It is impossible to talk about many things."

He said he was aware that "one or two charges from the [prosecutor's] side were dropped."

Begdesinov suggested that RFE/RL's coverage of his case had helped him gain his freedom.

Begdesinov's lawyer, Bairam Nazarmedov, told RFE/RL before the trial started that his client was officially charged with fraudulent activities and bribery.

Begdesinov's son, Alibek, who lives in Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL earlier this month that his father was legally helping ethnic Kazakhs in Turkmenistan to move permanently to Kazakhstan.

Alibek said his father received fees from potential Kazakh repatriates for his services.

Begdesinov was arrested on April 11 and police searched his house in Ashgabat, confiscating computers and some documents.

The U.S.-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said last month that Begdesinov was among at least four people arrested in recent weeks on what appeared to be politically motivated charges.

HRW said Begdesinov could have faced up to five years in prison if found guilty of the crimes. It called on Turkmen authorities to release him.

There were some 90,000 ethnic Kazakhs living in Turkmenistan in 1995. Thousands have since left the country for Kazakhstan in a repatriation process promoted by official Kazakhstan.

Read more in Kazakh here