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Kazakh Activist, Journalist Complain Of Pressure In Prison

Yevgeny Zhovtis (right) appears in court in September.
Yevgeny Zhovtis (right) appears in court in September.
ALMATY -- Yevgeny Zhovtis and Tohniyaz Kuchukov say that prison officials have put pressure on them to sign disadvantageous work contracts, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Zhovtis is the director of the Almaty-based Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights and Kuchukov is a journalist for the newspaper "Vremya."

In a joint statement published by several independent media outlets, the two said that the management of their prison near the northeastern city of Ust-Kamenogorsk is forcing them to sign a work contract with the Yenbek-Oskemen company.

Doing so would deny them the right to sign contracts with a company that has offered Zhovtis a job as a human rights consultant and Kuchukov work as a journalist.

They say prison officials have threatened to transfer them to a prison that has a harsher regime than Ust-Kamenogorsk if they don't agree to sign the contract.

Zhovtis and Kuchukov were each sentenced to four years in prison in September for their roles in deadly traffic accidents.

In October they were transferred from an Almaty prison to their current one.

Human rights organizations say the charges against the two men are politically motivated because of their professional activities.