Kazakh Journalist Gabdullin Arrested On Extortion Charges

ASTANA -- A well-known Kazakh journalist has been arrested on suspicion of extorting money from officials.

A court in Astana ordered journalist Bigeldy Gabdullin held for two months in pretrial detention on November 17. The Kazakh National Anticorruption Bureau says Gabdullin is suspected in extorting cash from state officials by "publishing materials damaging their business reputations."

Gabdullin, 61, became known in the 1990s for his critical articles about Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. In the early 2000s, he had to flee the country for the United States in fear for his life.

In 2004, Gabdullin changed his political views and returned to Kazakhstan, where he became the editor-in-chief of the progovernment Central Asia Monitor newspaper. He founded the Radiotochka.kz online news portal.

Last month, Seitqazy Mataev, the former head of the Kazakh Journalists Union, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of misappropriation of funds and tax evasion.

Dunja Mijatovic, the representative on freedom of the media for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said at the time that the case against Mataev "could be detrimental to media pluralism in Kazakhstan."