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Jailed Kazakh Journalist To Start Rights Activism After Release

Ramazan Esergepov

Ramazan Esergepov

ALMATY -- Jailed Kazakh journalist Ramazan Esergepov says he will start human rights defense activities after his scheduled release in three months, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Esergepov returned to a penitentiary in the southern Kazakh city of Taraz on September 26 as his one-week release to see his ailing mother in Almaty ended.

Esergepov told RFE/RL before departing for Taraz that since he has been officially banned by the court from working as a journalist he will be involved in human rights activities after his release in January.

He added that he does not plan to ask for clemency as he does not consider himself guilty of any crime.

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 was given one week, from September 19-26, to see his mother, who suffered a stroke earlier this month.

He told RFE/RL that he plans to defend human rights in general -- especially in the Kazakh penitentiary system -- and will fight corruption after his release.

"You do not have any idea what is happening in the jails and detention centers. Corruption has penetrated all spheres of everyday life in Kazakhstan and we have to do something about it," he said.

Esergepov added that he will also do everything to prove his innocence in order to clear his name.

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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