Kazakh civilian activist Almat Zhumagulov was released from a penal colony after serving nearly four years of an eight-year prison sentence on terrorism charges which human rights watchdogs say were motivated by political considerations.
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 remainder of his prison sentence under a “restricted liberty” regime – a sentence similar to parole – rather than in a penitentiary.
He was arrested in November 2017 and sentenced in December 2018 by an Almaty court for “spreading terrorism” and “inciting national hatred”.
Human rights activists regard Zhumagulov as a political prisoner, claim his conviction marked the start of a crackdown on suspected members of “extremist” groups, including the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, including Zhumagulov is a member.
DVK is headed by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA bank and outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities called DVK an extremist and banned the group in March 2018.
The European Parliament urged the Kazakh authorities to release Zhumagulov from prison.