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

ASTANA -- Prominent Kazakh journalist Bigeldy Gabdullin has gone on trial in Astana on extortion charges.

The prosecutor read out the charges against Gabdullin on January 17, alleging that he extorted cash from state officials by publishing or threatening to publish material damaging their reputations.

Gabdullin pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing on January 11.

His lawyer said that Gabdullin had paid more than $60,000 to victims, without giving an explanation.

Gabdullin was arrested in November.

Gabdullin, 61, became known in the 1990s for articles criticizing President Nursultan Nazarbaev. He fled for 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 Central Asia Monitor newspaper. He also founded the news site Radiotochka.kz.

Belgian police take part in a search in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek following bombings in Brussels in March.

Counterterrorism measures that have been adopted across Europe in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks are eroding human rights under the guise of defending them, Amnesty International warns.

In a report released on January 17, the London-based group analyzed counterterrorism legislation passed by 14 EU member states over the past two years, and said they were driving Europe into a "deep and dangerous state of permanent securitization."

It found that these laws often enhanced government powers to increase surveillance and restricted freedom of expression.

A growing number of countries has made it easier to declare states of emergency and grant special powers to security services with little judicial oversight, the report said.

"Discriminatory measures have had a disproportionate and profoundly negative impact on Muslims, foreign nationals, or people perceived to be Muslim or foreign," it also warned.

With reporting by dpa

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