ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The purported leader of a criminal group who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for stealing an unprecedented amount of oil in 2018 has been released "due to his state of health."
Relatives of Erkin Izbasar, the head of a group known as Four Brothers, told RFE/RL on November 12 that the 54-year-old was taken home in the northeastern city of Aqtobe three days earlier.
According to Izbasar's mother, her son was released from a penitentiary in the northeastern city of Oskemen in late October and rushed to the Central Asian country's largest city, Almaty, for surgery for unspecified reasons before he was transferred to Aqtobe.
Izbasar had been wheelchair-bound for many years following a traffic accident.
He and 25 others were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2018 after a court found them guilty of stealing hundreds of tons of oil in the Aqtobe region.
Izbasar rejected all the charges at the time and claimed he was tortured into confessing while in custody.
A court in Oskemen said on November 12 that Izbasar was released from the OV-156/20 correctional colony on October 21 due to his poor health, adding that parole-like restrictions were imposed on him for the remaining 11 years of his term.