Court Changes Well-Known Kazakh Rights Activist's Prison Sentence To A Fine.

TARAZ, Kazakhstan -- A court in the southern Kazakh city of Taraz has ordered the immediate release of well-known civil rights activist Sanavar Zakirova and changed her prison sentence to a fine in a case that she says was politically motivated.
Judge Nurmakhammat Abidov of the Zhambyl regional court on January 22 ruled that Zakirova must be released from prison and pay a fine of 56,000 tenges ($135) instead of serving the remainder of her one-year prison term. Zakirova was sentenced in July last year after the Medeu district court in the Central Asian country's largest city, Almaty, found her guilty of assaulting the daughter of a woman who had hurled vulgarities at a rally in March. Zakirova has insisted that all of the accusations against her are groundless and politically motivated. Zakirova was an initiator of, and leading participant in, rallies in Almaty and Nur-Sultan, the capital, in 2019 by residents of Kazakhstan's various regions, demanding action on what they called "incorrect" court decisions in a number of cases. In March 2019, Almaty city authorities denied Zakirova permission to hold a congress to establish a new political party, Our Right. Later that year, Zakirova and two other activists were found guilty by a court in Almaty of distributing false information about the ruling Nur-Otan party over the Internet. They were ordered to pay the equivalent of $15,000 to the party. Zakirova and her supporters said then that the case was politically motivated. Days later Zakirova and three other female activists mocked Nur-Otan, staging a public action where they asked worshipers outside a mosque in Nur-Sultan for money to help pay a fine to the ruling party. Police detained the women and fined them the equivalent of $32 each for causing a public nuisance. Kazakh human rights organizations have recognized Zakirova as a political prisoner.

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