Criminal investigation into shootings of protesters by Kazakhstan police


Kazakhstan’s prosecutor-general says a criminal case has been launched against police over the shooting of protesters in the western city of Zhanaozen in clashes this month that killed more than a dozen people.

Nurdaulet Suindikov of the Kazakh Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement that an inquiry was in progress to determine whether police exceeded their authority. He also said in his statement that arrests of suspects in Zhanaozen continue, and that 20 people have so far been detained -- 18 of them charged so far, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reports. 

At least 16 people were killed in the December 16 incident. Videos subsequently posted to the Internet by residents of Zhanaozen appeared to show police firing at people as they fled the scene of the protest, seemingly contradicting official claims that police only fired into the air or ground and only in self-defense.
Police were reportedly trying to track down the person or people who recorded some of the most disturbing of those images. Another video has since emerged in which apparent gunfire erupts. 

Oil workers in the city had been protesting since May for better wages and on December 16, Kazakhstan’s Independence Day, a riot started when city authorities prepared for celebrations to mark the event.

The head of a government task force created to restore order in the city announced on December 28 that a 20-day curfew imposed on Zhanaozen in the wake of the violence would be extended. The official, Umirzak Shukeev, did not say how long the special police measures would remain in effect.
RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service quotes relatives of protesting oilmen expressing fears, in taped interviews with local bloggers, for the safety of their husbands and other detainees caught up in authorities’ crackdown since the violence.

compiled from RFE/RL and regional agency reports

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