Lawyer: Kazakh activist freed after signing guilt admission

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) — A Kazakh activist who was on trial for inciting ethnic tensions has been freed after signing an admission of his guilt under pressure, an attorney said Friday.

The trial of Serikzhan Bilash, who has campaigned for the release of ethnic Kazakhs in China, began Friday in Almaty, Kazakhstan's principal city. Journalists were barred from attending.

Lawyer Aiman Umarova, who had represented Bilash, said he told her that he was told by officials that he would face a hard sentence if he did not sign an admission. She said he signed but that she refused to, believing the move to be illegal and that another lawyer was appointed for him before he was freed.

The detention of possibly over a million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in Chinese internment camps has raised acute concerns in Kazakhstan, which heavily relies on trade with neighboring China. Bilash's group has actively supported relatives of those detained.