Jailed Kazakh Opposition Activist Unexpectedly Granted Early Release

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh opposition activist, Aset Abishev, who is serving a four-year prison term on charges of supporting activities of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, has been granted an early release.

Late on July 14, the Qapshaghai city court in the southern Almaty region unexpectedly supported Abishev's early release request after rejecting several previous applications. No reason was given for granting the early release.

The court decision will take force in 15 days unless prosecutors file an appeal.

Abishev was sentenced to four years in prison in November 2018 after a court in Almaty found him guilty of participating in the activities of a banned organization and financially supporting a criminal group.

Abishev has rejected the verdict, calling the case against him politically motivated and denying that the DVK movement or its founder -- fugitive former banker and a vocal critic of Kazakhstan's government, Mukhtar Ablyazov -- are extremist.

Kazakhstan banned the DVK in March 2018 after deeming it an extremist organization.

Kazakh human rights organizations have recognized Abishev as a political prisoner and had demanded his release.

In June 2020, Abishev's name was included in a letter from a group of U.S. senators, in which they urged authorities in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian nations to release "unjustly detained prisoners at high risk of COVID-19."