ASTANA -- Prominent Kazakh journalist Bigeldy Gabdullin has been found guilty of extortion and sentenced to five years of "freedom limitation."
A court in Astana on January 24 found Gabdullin guilty of extorting cash from state officials by publishing or threatening to publish materials that damaged their reputations. He was sentenced the same day.
Freedom limitation is similar to a suspended sentence with parolelike restrictions.
Gabdullin said he was thankful to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev for the mild sentence.
Gabdullin, who went on trial on January 17, pleaded guilty. He was arrested in November.
Gabdullin, 61, became well-known in the 1990s for articles criticizing Nazarbaev. He fled to the United States in the early 2000s, saying he feared for his life.
Gabdullin returned to Kazakhstan in 2004 and became the editor in chief of the pro-government newspaper Central Asia Monitor. He also founded the website Radiotochka.kz.