Another Kazakh Activist Jailed Over Links To Ablyazov's Banned Political Group.

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh activist Erbol Eskhozhin has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison over alleged links to the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, as authorities continue to round up the group's supporters.

The DVK is led from abroad by fugitive former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov.

The Saryarqa district court in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, pronounced the sentence against Eskhozhin on August 3.

Eskhozhin proclaimed his innocence in his final statement at the trial, which was held online due to coronavirus restrictions.

"I do not regret any of my deeds. If I showed my compatriots that they can use their constitutional rights and express their thoughts freely, then I consider myself the winner of this case," Eskhozhin said.

The 44-year-old Eskhozhin went on trial in April.

He was arrested in December and charged with taking part in activities of the DVK, which was labeled extremist and banned by Kazakh officials in 2018.

In December, the charge was changed to organizing activities for the DVK, which is an offense punishable by up to six years in prison.

Eskhozhin has rejected the charge as politically motivated.

In recent years, a number of Kazakh activists have been convicted for their involvement in the activities of the DVK and its associated Koshe (Street) Party.

Ablyazov, the former head of BTA Bank, has been living in Europe since 2009 and is sought for alleged financial crimes by Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

In December, a Russian court sentenced him to 15 years in prison in absentia on embezzlement charges.

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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