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Court Acquits Kazakh Activist Charged With Calling To Overthrow Government

Aigul Aqberdieva (left) and her lawyer, Zhanar Sundetqalieva

AQTAU, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan's western city of Aqtau has acquitted activist Aigul Aqberdieva in a high-profile case that stemmed from her social-media posts.

Aqberdieva’s lawyer, Zhanar Sundetqalieva, told RFE/RL that the court on February 6 also ruled that investigators violated Kazakhstan's Criminal Procedural Code while investigating the case.

The 39-year-old Aqberdieva was accused of using social-media accounts of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement to call for the “forceful overthrow of the government."

On January 31, a prosecutor asked the court to convict Aqberdieva and sentence her to five years of "freedom limitation" -- a suspended sentence with parolelike restrictions.

Aqberdieva went on trial in September, four days after her 45-year-old husband, Ablovas Zhumaev, was found guilty of the same charge and sentenced to three years in prison.

Both Aqberdieva and her husband pleaded not guilty and called their cases politically motivated.

The couple has four children, the youngest of whom is 2 years old.

Kazakhstan deemed the DVK an extremist organization and banned the group in March 2018.

The political movement was founded by fugitive former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, who has been a vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

In November, Ablyazov was sentenced in absentia to life in prison by a Kazakh court for murder. He has denied the charge and called it politically motivated.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, in power since before the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

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