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Ex-Chief Of Kazakh Journalists' Union Released From Prison

Kazakh Journalist Released From Prison
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ZARECHNY, Kazakhstan -- The former chief of the Kazakh Journalists' Union, Seitqazy Mataev, who was sentenced to six years in prison last year for embezzlement and tax evasion, has been released from a penal colony after serving less than 20 months of his prison term.

Mataev told journalists upon leaving the penal colony in Zarechny, near Almaty, on December 4 that he hopes his son Aset Mataev, who was sentenced to five years in prison in the same case, will soon be released as well.

The Qapshaghai City Court in Kazakhstan's southeastern Almaty region granted Mataev early release on November 16.

Mataev, 63, and his son were arrested in February last year. They were sentenced in October after a court found them guilty of tax evasion and embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars from Kazakhstan's Communications Ministry.

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

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