ZARECHNY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh opposition activist Aset Abishev, who was jailed for supporting the activities of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, has been released from a penal colony after serving more than 2 1/2 years in prison.
Abishev said after leaving the correctional colony in the town of Zarechny in the southern Almaty region on July 30 that he was in a hurry to attend the burial of outspoken opposition figure and noted theater director Bolat Atabaev, who died a day earlier.
Abishev was released more than two weeks after the Qapshaghai City Court for the Almaty region unexpectedly supported, without explanation, his early release application after rejecting several previous requests.
Abishev was sentenced to four years in prison in November 2018 after a court in Almaty found him guilty of participating in the activities of a banned organization and financially supporting a criminal group.
Abishev has rejected the verdict, calling the case against him politically motivated and denying that the DVK movement or its founder -- fugitive former banker and a vocal critic of Kazakhstan's government, Mukhtar Ablyazov -- were extremist.
Kazakhstan banned the DVK in March 2018 after deeming it an extremist organization.
Kazakh human rights organizations had recognized Abishev as a political prisoner and had demanded his release.
In June 2020, Abishev's name was included in a letter from a group of U.S. senators, in which they urged authorities in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian nations to release "unjustly detained prisoners at high risk of COVID-19."