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'Award' Visit For Jailed Kazakh Rights Defender

Human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis
The head of a European human rights watchdog has visited jailed Kazakh rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis to congratulate him on being awarded the group's annual prize, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Bjorn Engesland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, spent two hours with Zhovtis at the prison in northeastern city of Oskemen on August 26.

The committee awarded Zhovtis its Andrey Sakharov Freedom Award 2010, describing him as "one of the most significant human rights defenders in Kazakhstan for two decades."

It said that through his work, Zhovtis had "contributed to the strengthening of human rights in his home country."

Zhovtis was sentenced to four years in prison last year over a car accident in which he killed a pedestrian. An initial police investigation that found him not responsible for the crash was later overturned. His supporters say the authorities used the case to put pressure on Zhovtis and punish him for his activities.

Roza Akylbekova, the acting director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, will receive the award on Zhovtis's behalf at a ceremony in Oslo on September 9.