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Kazakhs Rally In Almaty To Support Jailed Journalists

Demonstrators in Almaty
Demonstrators in Almaty
A rally was held in central Almaty today in support of jailed journalists in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The event was held under the banner "Freedom to journalists convicted for their professional activities" and marked the first anniversary of the arrest of Ramazan Esergepov, editor of the weekly newspaper "Alma-Ata Info," who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2009 for publishing classified documents.

Police monitored the event, which remained peaceful. It was organized by Esergepov's wife, Raushan Esergepova, the Kazakh nongovernmental organization Journalists in Trouble, the political group Alga, the opposition National Social-Democratic Party, and the Azat (Freedom) party.

Activists released balloons with the names of jailed journalists, including Esergepov, "Vremya" newspaper correspondent Tohniyaz Kuchukov, writer Alpamys Bekturganov, and "Law and Justice" editor in chief Tokbergen Abiev.

Rozlana Taukina, the head of Journalists in Trouble, told RFE/RL that the action is aimed at reminding society about human rights violations in Kazakhstan.

Esergepov was found guilty in August of revealing state secrets after publishing some government documents.

Abiev was convicted for investigating judicial corruption.

Bekturganov was imprisoned after writing a critical article about West Kazakhstan region Governor Baktykozha Izmukhambetov.

Activists told RFE/RL they believe Kuchukov -- who was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a deadly traffic accident -- was also convicted for his journalistic activities, because of his strict sentence.

Esergepova told RFE/RL that she had visited her husband in prison on New Year's Eve. She said she hoped he would be released on parole soon, since he has served one-third of his sentence.