High-Profile Trial Of Kazakh Journalist Gabdullin Starts In Astana

ASTANA -- Prominent Kazakh journalist Bigeldy Gabdullin has gone on trial in Astana on extortion charges.

The prosecutor read out the charges against Gabdullin on January 17, alleging that he extorted cash from state officials by publishing or threatening to publish material damaging their reputations.

Gabdullin pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing on January 11.

His lawyer said that Gabdullin had paid more than $60,000 to victims, without giving an explanation.

Gabdullin was arrested in November.

Gabdullin, 61, became known in the 1990s for articles criticizing President Nursultan Nazarbaev. He fled for the United States in the early 2000s, saying he feared for his life.

Gabdullin returned to Kazakhstan in 2004 and became the editor in chief of the pro-government Central Asia Monitor newspaper. He also founded the news site Radiotochka.kz.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.