Monday, July 16, 2012 -
Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Masimov was briefly mobbed by protesters Monday when he visited the restive western oil town of Zhanaozen, scene of deadly clashes with police last December.
Scores of residents of the town in Mangystau province, located southeast of the provincial capital Aktau, briefly accosted the country’s premier as he entered an administration building, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
The placard-carrying demonstrators were mainly relatives of 37 residents sentenced last month to years-long jail sentences for organizing or supporting mass unrest among oil workers engaged in a protracted strike last year.
The seven-month long strike action over pay and working conditions ended violently on December 16 when police opened fire on labor organizers in Zhanaozen's main square.
Clashes broke out and police shot dead at least 15 unarmed civilians and injured around 100 more.
During a visit to Kazakhstan last week, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay urged for an independent international investigation into the riots.
She said too many questions remained unanswered.
“It is not clear who gave the orders allowing police to open fire, or precisely why they did so,” she told a press conference in Astana, the capital city.
“I believe it is extremely damaging for Kazakhstan’s reputation to have so much uncertainly hanging over such a serious episode resulting in substantial loss of life,” the BBC news agency cited Pillay.
The rights chief said it is necessary to draw a line under the tragic event.