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Kazakh Civil Rights Activist Zhumagulov Released From Penal Colony

Kazakh civil activist Almat Zhumagulov
Kazakh civil activist Almat Zhumagulov

Kazakh civil activist Almat Zhumagulov has been released from a penal colony after completing almost four years of an eight-year prison sentence on terrorism charges that human rights watchdogs say were politically motivated.

Zhumagulov's October 1 release from the Zarechny penal colony in the Almaty region came after a Kazakh court approved his request to serve the rest of his prison term in a regime of "restricted freedom" -- a parole-like sentence -- rather than in a penitentiary.

He was detained in November 2017 and was sentenced in December 2018 by a court in Almaty on charges of "propagating terrorism" and "inciting national hatred.”

Human rights activists consider Zhumagulov a political prisoner and say that his conviction signaled the beginning of a wave of repression against alleged members of "extremist" groups, including the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, of which Zhumagulov is a member.

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

The European Parliament has urged the Kazakh authorities to release Zhumagulov from prison.

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