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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakh Reporter Convicted of Insulting the President

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh court issued a two-year suspended sentence to an outspoken opposition journalist Monday for insulting the president, a media advocacy group said.

A court ruled that reporter Kazis Toguzbayev insulted President Nursultan Nazarbayev by implying in two Internet articles last year that he was responsible for the February 2005 killing of an opposition leader and for authorities' alleged attempts to hush up the crime, said Rozlana Taukina, leader of the advocacy group Journalists in Trouble.

Prosecutors had demanded a three-year prison term for Toguzbayev, who maintained his innocence and said the case brought against him by the National Security Committee was an attack on freedom of speech, Taukina said. The suspended sentence means he will not be imprisoned.

Taukina, who monitored the trial at a district court in the commercial capital, Almaty, said the case was politically motivated and that Toguzbayev's stories were "just a critical analysis of the political situation" after Altynbek Sarsenbayev's slaying.

The killing of Sarsenbayev, leader of the opposition Nagyz Ak Zhol party, had roiled politics in the country.

Authorities ruled that the murder was masterminded by a senior parliament member out of personal enmity.

The opposition insisted that the killing was politically motivated and accused authorities of protecting the perpetrators.

Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan for 17 years and concentrated most power in his hands, is criticized for delaying democratic reforms and pressuring independent media.