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Kyrgyz Court Frees Journalist Jailed Over His Book

Kyrgyz journalist Zulpukar Sapanov (file photo)
Kyrgyz journalist Zulpukar Sapanov (file photo)

A court in Bishkek has freed a Kyrgyz journalist who had been sentenced to four years in prison for a book he wrote.

The Bishkek City Court on September 29 changed Zulpukar Sapanov's sentence to a suspended one, allowing the journalist to leave the courtroom.

The ruling came 17 days after a district court in Bishkek ruled that Sapanov's book, Kydyr Sanjrasy (Kydyr's Name Origin), contains content that "diminishes the role of Islam as a religion and creates a negative attitude toward Muslims."

The four-year sentence issued against Sapanov on September 12 sparked an outcry by rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan and abroad.

Kyrgyz Ombudsman Kubat Otorbaev called the September 12 ruling "a return to the time of inquisition."

Sapanov insists that his book aimed to compare traditional faiths and beliefs in Kyrgyzstan with pre-Islamic religions in other Turkic-speaking Central Asian countries.

Sapanov’s supporters say he should be protected by the Kyrgyz constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of faith.