Ailing Jehovah's Witness Released From Kazakh Prison After Pardon

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has pardoned a Jehovah's Witness who was serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly inciting religious and ethnic hatred.

The Christian Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kazakhstan said on April 5 that 61-year-old Teimur Akhmedov was released from prison and is currently being treated in an oncology clinic in Almaty.

Akhmedov was arrested in January 2017 while being treated for cancer, and a court last year convicted him of propagating ideas that "disrupt interreligious and interethnic concord."

Rights activists have expressed concerns about the treatment of religious minorities in the Central Asian country.

Mostly Muslim Kazakhstan has a secular government and has been ruled by Nazarbaev since before it gained independence in the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Freedom of religion is formally guaranteed in Kazakhstan but legislation sets out Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism as the country's four traditional religions, while smaller denominations frequently face discrimination.