Kazakhstan frees jailed editor, dozens await trial

March 16, 2012 08:55

ALMATY - A Kazakh newspaper editor critical of strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been pardoned and released from jail, while dozens of other people were awaiting trial after Kazakhstan's worst violence in decades.

Igor Vinyavsky, editor of the opposition newspaper Vzglyad, was jailed in January. The KNB, successor of the Soviet-era KGB secret police, said at the time Vinyavsky had been charged with calling for the forcible overthrow of constitutional order.

A group of prominent opposition activists, including Vladimir Kozlov, leader of the unregistered Alga! party, was arrested at the same time on charges that also included fomenting social hatred.

The arrests, which triggered an angry outcry from Western human rights bodies and protest rallies in Kazakhstan, followed deadly clashes between sacked oil workers and police in western Kazakhstan in December, in which at least 16 people were killed.

"My client was released yesterday," Vinyavsky's lawyer Gennady Nam told Reuters. "They (prosecutors) could not prove he had acted as part of an organized criminal group -- which is a less grave crime -- and his plea for amnesty was satisfied."

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