Monday, May 21, 2012 -
Six Kazakh citizens were convicted on Monday of participating in deadly riots in western oil town Zhanaozen.
Four of those convicted will serve between four and seven years in prison, while one was given a suspended three-year sentence. The sixth individual convicted will serve no time for the minor crime, as part of a national amnesty for such crimes.
Six others on trial were exonerated from participating in the riot, which caused the death of at least 16 on December 16, which coincided with celebrations of Kazakhstan’s twentieth year of independence.
Eyewitnesses to the Zhanaozen event said that Kazakh police officers opened fire on the crowd and were responsible for the deaths, while Kazakhstan, ever-conscious of its international reputation, pitted the blame on demonstrators.
Human rights advocate Yevgeny Zhovtis told the Reuters news agency that he is surprised the sentences were so short.
“It is certainly an attempt by the authorities to save face and also demonstrate their force, while trying at the same time not to escalate tension any further in that region,” he said.