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Jailed Kazakh Rights Activist Doubtful About Parole

Head of the Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights Yevgeny Zhovtis. Almaty, 10Feb2010.
OSKEMEN, Kazakhstan, July 18, 2011 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan's most prominent human rights activist, who is serving a four-year prison term for a traffic accident, says it is unlikely he will be granted parole, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Yevgeny Zhovtis, head of the Almaty-based Kazakh Bureau for Human Rights, told RFE/RL on July 16 that the parole commission will discuss his request on July 19.

He said that since he is deemed by officials to have violated regulations at his minimum-security labor camp in Oskemen, he is unlikely to be granted parole.

"[But] the decision about my release on parole does not depend on me or on the labor camp's administration," Zhovtis told RFE/RL, suggesting that the decision will be made by a much higher authority in Kazakhstan.

Zhovtis was sentenced in September 2009 for killing a pedestrian in a car accident. An initial police investigation that found him not responsible for the accident was later overturned.

Zhovtis's supporters say the authorities used the case to punish him for his activities.

In November, Zhovtis complained that 100 of the 130 inmates at the labor camp work outside of it, but that he is not allowed to do so for political reasons.

He said the labor camp administration does everything to prevent any exchange of information between him and people outside.

Last year, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee awarded Zhovtis its Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award, describing him as "one of the most significant human rights defenders in Kazakhstan for two decades."

Zhovtis was released on furlough on July 15 for two weeks, the second time he has been allowed to leave prison and stay with his family. He said the furlough surprised him.

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