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Rights Activist Flees Kazakhstan Over Safety Fears

Civil activist and journalist Ramazan Esergepov (file photo)
Civil activist and journalist Ramazan Esergepov (file photo)

A prominent Kazakh rights activist who heads a group that advocates for the rights and safety of journalists says he has fled the country because he fears for his life.

Ramazan Esergepov, president of the Almaty-based NGO Journalists In Trouble, told RFE/RL by phone on August 4 that he is in Paris. He said he arrived there on August 3.

Esergepov told RFE/RL that he decided to leave Kazakhstan after he was stabbed by unknown attackers in May and other developments led him to conclude that he might be jailed.

On August 1, police in Almaty detained and questioned Esergepov, accusing him of organizing of an unsanctioned rally in Almaty on July 29 to support political prisoners.

Esergepov became president of Journalists In Trouble in 2012.

He previously spent three years in prison after being convicted of revealing classified information in articles about alleged links between a Kazakh businessman and the National Security Committee.

At least five activists and journalists have fled Kazakhstan for Ukraine in recent years.

Zhanar Akhmet, a blogger who criticized President Nursultan Nazarbaev's government, fled in March amid mounting pressure and politically charged criminal investigations.

Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, tolerates little dissent.