Radio Free Europe

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 22 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia.

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Kazakh Opposition Activist Gets Seven Years In Prison, Family Says Will Appeal.

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- An opposition activist in Kazakhstan's southern city of Shymkent has been sentenced to seven years in prison on terrorism charges that he rejects.

The Al-Farabi district court sentenced Erulan Amirov on May 16 after finding him guilty of inciting social hatred, propagating terrorism, and involvement in the activities of a banned organization.

After his sentence was pronounced, Amirov said: "I do not know why I am in custody."

An RFE/RL correspondent said a bruise could be seen on Amirov's head, but when asked about it, the activist answered that he was "scared" to talk about it.

Amirov's mother, Sharipa Niyazova, said the court ruling will be appealed.

Amirov, who went on trial in January, was arrested in April last year. But his family only learned that he was being held in a detention center in Shymkent in December after what a Kazakh human rights group said was attempt to commit suicide.

Niyazova says her son suffers psychiatric disorders.

Kazakh human rights organizations have designated Amirov as a political prisoner and have demanded his release.

The charges against Amirov stemmed from his posts on social networks criticizing Kazakh authorities and for his participation in unsanctioned protest rallies organized by the banned Koshe (Street) political party.

Many activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed prison terms or parole-like restricted freedom sentences in recent years for their involvement in the activities of the Koshe party and its affiliate Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement.

DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and outspoken critic of the Kazakh government.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier this year criticized the Kazakh government for using anti-extremism laws as a tool to persecute critics and civic activists. Several hundred people have been prosecuted for membership in the Koshe party.

The Kazakh authorities have insisted there are no political prisoners in the country.

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