Kazakh Activist's Early Release Canceled At Last Moment

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — Kazakh activist Kenzhebek Abishev, who was jailed for being linked to a political movement founded by a fugitive tycoon, was not released from prison on February 16 as expected.

On February 1, the Qapshaghai City Court in southern Kazakhstan’s ruled that Abishev can be released on February 16, more than three years early, for good behavior while in prison, a procedure allowed by Kazakh laws.

However, the Almaty regional prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling at the very last moment, arguing that the 53-year-old activist’s good behavior in custody is not enough to warrant his early release since he still has more than three years to serve.

Abishev’s lawyer, Gulnara Zhuaspaeva, told RFE/RL that the prosecutor’s appeal was “baseless,” since all inmates are entitled to benefit from early release for good behavior.

“Abishev was officially praised five times for his good behavior while in the penal colony, he received several letters of thanks from the colony’s administration. His medical condition is also a serious reason for an earlier release,” Zhuaspaeva said, adding that she will continue to fight for her client to be set free ahead of schedule.

Abishev was sentenced to seven years in prison in December 2018 after he and two other activists were found guilty of planning a “holy war” because they were spreading the ideas of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement. His prison term was later cut by eight months.

Abishev, whom Kazakh rights groups have recognized as a political prisoner, pleaded not guilty, calling the case against him politically motivated.

The DVK was founded by Mukhtar Ablyazov, an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government who has been residing in France for several years.

Ablyazov has been organizing unsanctioned anti-government rallies in Kazakhstan via the Internet in recent years.

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