Nazarbaev Approves Big Prisoner Amnesty in Kazakhstan

ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has enacted an amnesty for tens of thousands of people who are behind bars in the Central Asian nation.

Before signing an amnesty bill into law on December 13, Nazarbaev said that the amnesty would affect some 28,000 convicts and people held in pretrial detention.

Of those, Nazarbaev said, some 1,500 will be released, 80 percent of them on parole. Others will have their sentences reduced.

Nazarbaev proposed the amnesty in late November to mark the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence, which is celebrated on December 16. The bill was approved by the parliament earlier in December.

Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan had eight mass amnesties for prisoners since it gained independence in 1991.

Some 36,000 persons are currently either serving prison sentences or awaiting trial in the nation of 17 million.