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Bigeldy Gabdullin in a courtroom in Astana on January 24

ASTANA -- Prominent Kazakh journalist Bigeldy Gabdullin has been found guilty of extortion and sentenced to five years of "freedom limitation."

A court in Astana on January 24 found Gabdullin guilty of extorting cash from state officials by publishing or threatening to publish materials that damaged their reputations. He was sentenced the same day.

Freedom limitation is similar to a suspended sentence with parolelike restrictions.

Gabdullin said he was thankful to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev for the mild sentence.

Gabdullin, who went on trial on January 17, pleaded guilty. He was arrested in November.

Gabdullin, 61, became well-known in the 1990s for articles criticizing Nazarbaev. He fled to the United States in the early 2000s, saying he feared for his life.

Gabdullin returned to Kazakhstan in 2004 and became the editor in chief of the pro-government newspaper Central Asia Monitor. He also founded the website

Ildar Dadin was convicted in December 2015 and is currently serving a 2 1/2-year sentence at a prison in the Altai Krai region in southwestern Siberia.

Russia's Constitutional Court has held a hearing into a complaint filed by imprisoned activist Ildar Dadin, whose claims of torture cast a spotlight on abuses in Russian penitentiaries.

Dadin's wife, Anastasia Zotova, was one of several people detained by police outside the court in St. Petersburg on January 24 after the hearing.

Dadin was the first person convicted under a controversial Russian law criminalizing participation in more than one unsanctioned protest in a 180-day period.

He says the law is unconstitutional, arguing that a person cannot be criminally prosecuted for an offense he has already been found guilty of in administrative proceedings.

Russian media reports published ahead of the hearing on January 24 quoted Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Malinovsky as saying that his office supported Dadin's stance, explaining that "a repetition of violations of regulations of public gatherings cannot lead to their criminalization as it does not increase the level of the danger to society."

However, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, Aleksandr Kurennoi, said later that it considers the law constitutional.

The court adjourned its hearing without announcing a ruling.

Dadin, 34, was convicted in December 2015 and is currently serving a 2 1/2-year sentence at a prison in the Altai Krai region in southwestern Siberia.

In 2016, he wrote an open letter saying that he and other prisoners had been beaten and tortured in the prison in the Karelia region where he was sent after his conviction.

Dadin's wife, Anastasia Zotova, told the news website Mediazona that police detained her outside the Constitutional Court along with a protester, a journalist, and one other person. She said the police accused them of jaywalking.

The website OVD-Info, which tracks police actions against protesters in Russia, reported earlier that four people protesting in support of Dadin's complaint were also detained. It was unclear whether that included the protester detained along with Zotova.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Mediazona, OVD-Info, Ekho Moskvy, Kommersant, and Vedomosti

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