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Kazakh Activists Urge Release Of Jailed Journalist

Ramazan Esergepov
TARAZ, Kazakhstan -- Several Kazakh activists gathered at a prison in southern Kazakhstan today to demand the release of journalist Ramazan Esergepov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Rozlana Taukina, chairwoman of the media nongovernmental organization Journalists in Danger, and freelance journalist Andrey Sviridov were at the prison in Taraz to call for Esergepov's immediate release.

Activists also released balloons imprinted with the names of jailed journalists in Kazakhstan.

Prison authorities and the Prosecutor-General's Office have said Esergepov should be released by 9 a.m. on January 6.

Esergepov, who was chief editor and founder of the independent weekly newspaper "Alma-Ata Info," was jailed for three years in August 2009 over an article about alleged links between a businessman and the National Security Committee (KNB).

Esergepov and rights organizations protested the verdict, saying it was politically motivated. "Alma-Ata Info" was closed down after his arrest.

Esergepov told RFE/RL last year that he plans to become a human rights activist and will fight against corruption after his release. He added that he will also work to prove his innocence and clear his name of the charges against him.

Esergepov is recipient of the 2011 Hellman-Hammett Grant. The award is administered by Human Rights Watch and is awarded to writers and journalists who have been subject to political persecution and are in financial need.

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