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Kazakh Activist Abishev Again Denied Early Release

Kenzhebek Abishev (left) is seen in court during his trial in September 2018.
Kenzhebek Abishev (left) is seen in court during his trial in September 2018.

QAPSHAGHAI, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan has again rejected an early-release request for ailing activist Kenzhebek Abishev, who has been recognized by domestic human rights organizations as a political prisoner.

Abishev's lawyer, Gulnar Zhuaspaeva, told RFE/RL that the court ruled on May 11 that Abishev cannot be granted early release, again rejecting his argument for time off due to good behavior and concerns over his health.

Last week, the chairwoman of the Aman-Saulyq Human Rights Foundation, Bakhyt Tumenova, said that Abishev's condition was worrisome, as he suffers from multiple medical conditions and should be released as soon as possible.

In mid-April, Abishev was rushed from prison to the hospital in Qapshaghai as his condition word due to a hunger strike that he started to protest the cancellation of his release in February on parole and prison conditions.

Physicians then diagnosed Abishev with coronary heart disease. It is not clear at the moment if Abishev is still on his hunger strike.

On February 1, the Qapshaghai court ruled that Abishev could be released on February 16, more than three years early, for good behavior while in prison, a procedure allowed by Kazakh law.

However, the Almaty regional prosecutor's office appealed the ruling at the very last moment, arguing that the 53-year-old activist's good behavior in custody was not enough to secure his early release, since he still had more than three years to serve.

The court then scrapped the move, leaving Abishev in prison.

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. His prison term was later cut by eight months.

Abishev 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 living in France for several years.

Ablyazov has been organizing unsanctioned anti-government rallies in Kazakhstan via the Internet in recent years.

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