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Kazakh Activist Imprisoned For Links With Banned Opposition Groups Handed Early Release

Kazakh activist Qairat Qylyshev (file photo)
Kazakh activist Qairat Qylyshev (file photo)

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan has allowed the early release of an opposition activist who was sentenced to five years in prison in October on extremism-related charges that he and his supporters have rejected.

Qairat Qylyshev's lawyer, Shynquat Baizhanov, told RFE/RL on April 11 that the decision by the Qapshaghai city court will take force in 10 days unless the ruling is appealed by prosecutors. Details of the ruling were not immediately disclosed.

Qylyshev and three other opposition activists were sentenced to five years in prison in October after a court found them guilty of having links with the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) and the Koshe party.

During their trial, the defendants claimed they only participated in peaceful protests and exercised their constitutionally protected rights.

Many activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed lengthy prison terms or parole-like restricted freedom sentences in recent years for their involvement in the activities of DVK and the Koshe party and for taking part in the rallies organized by the two groups.

DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities labeled DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.

Human Rights Watch earlier this year criticized the Kazakh government for using anti-extremism laws as a tool to persecute critics and civic activists. Several hundred people have been prosecuted for membership of the Koshe party.

The Kazakh authorities have insisted there are no political prisoners in the Central Asian country.

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