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Jailed Kazakh Journalist Union Ex-Chief Granted Early Release

Seitqazy Mataev

QAPSHAGHAI, Kazakhstan -- The former chief of the Kazakh Journalists' Union, Seitqazy Mataev, who is serving a sentence for embezzlement and tax evasion, has been granted early release.

The decision, announced on November 16 by the Qapshaghai City Court in Kazakhstan's southeastern Almaty region, will come into force in 15 days.

Mataev, 63, was found guilty in October 2016 of tax evasion and embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars from Kazakhstan's Communications Ministry and sentenced to six years in prison.

His son and co-defendant, Aset Mataev, was also found guilty in the case and sentenced to five years in prison.

Both have denied the charges, and rights groups say Seitqazy Mataev was prosecuted on trumped-up charges in response to his work as head of the journalists’ union.

In April, Mataev's prison term was shortened by two years and eight months, in accordance with an amnesty that was announced in December 2016 to mark the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence.