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Kazakhstan condemns 34 over deadly rioting: court

05 june 2012, 13:24
Defendants, accused of participating in the December 2011 clashes in Zhanaozen. ©REUTERS/Stringer
Defendants, accused of participating in the December 2011 clashes in Zhanaozen. ©REUTERS/Stringer
Kazakhstan on Monday handed punishments ranging from three years suspended prison sentences to seven years jail to 34 people charged with organising its deadliest post-Soviet unrest last year, AFP reports.

The clashes between striking energy sector workers and security forces in the Caspian Sea town of Zhanaozen in December last year left 14 people dead and shattered Kazakhstan's hard-earned reputation for stability.

Of 37 suspected rioters on trial, three were acquitted in the special courtroom set up in the grounds of a youth centre in the regional capital of Aktau, a court spokesman told AFP.

Sixteen were sentenced to three-year suspended sentences while another eight will go to prison for three years. Three were given two-year jail terms and two four-year sentences.

One suspect received a term of five years, three got six years and one woman named as Roza Tuletayeva was given the longest term of seven years. Of those jailed, five were given immediate amnesties.

The opposition and rights activists have claimed that many of those on trial have said that they were beaten, suffocated, and threatened with rape or harm to their families while being interrogated.

The unrest prompted one of Kazakhstan's biggest shake-ups since independence with President Nursultan Nazarbayev removing his son-in-law and presumed heir Timur Kulibayev as head of the vast state holding company Samruk-Kazyna.

Authorities initially laid the blame squarely on protestors for the violence but then launched separate criminal cases against police for using excessive force.

Six police were given jail sentences of five to seven years for their role in suppressing the protest while three local energy bosses were jailed for seven to eight years for embezzlement and failing to ease social tensions.

Fourteen people were killed and dozens wounded in the Zhanaozen clashes on December 16. Another person also died in linked unrest in a nearby village on December 17.

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