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Early Release For Kazakh Activist Jailed On Terrorism Charge Denied

Kenzhebek Abishev (left) appears in an Almaty courtroom during hearings in his case in September 2018.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The Almaty regional court has upheld a lower court's decision to deny an early release request by Kazakh activist Kenzhebek Abishev, who was jailed for being linked to a political movement founded by a fugitive tycoon.

Abishev's lawyer, Gulnara Zhuaspaeva, told RFE/RL that the decision was handed down on November 24. Abishev's request for early release was rejected by the Qapshaghai district court on October 5.

The 53-year-old Abishev was sentenced to seven years in prison in December 2018 after he and two other activists were found guilty of planning a holy war because they were spreading the ideas of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement.

Abishev, who Kazakh rights groups have declared a political prisoner, pleaded not guilty, calling the case against him politically motivated.

The DVK was founded by Mukhtar Ablyazov, an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government who has been residing in France for several years.

Ablyazov, who has been organizing unsanctioned anti-government rallies in Kazakhstan via the Internet in recent years, was the head of a bank known as BTA. He is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion.

Ablyazov has denied all charges.

Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.

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