Kazakh riot trials spread
punishment By Margarita
The courts in Mangistau region of
Kazakhstan have concluded the trials of 56 people
held accountable for the violent events that took
place surrounding a labor dispute in Zhanaozen and
Shetpe that took place on December 16-17, 2011.
The court rulings sent a strong message
that all sides that contributed to the escalation
of the oil workers' labor dispute into violent
riots and subsequent police shooting are equally
responsible. Since March, several parallel trials
have been held against protestors, police
officers, oil company managers and local
The longest prison
term - eight years - was received by an oil
company executive, followed by seven-year prison
sentences handed down to two other oil company
managers, one police
officer and two
civilians convicted for organizing the riots. The
court also ordered that the property of six
convicted police officers and three oil company
executives be confiscated.
against local officials have not been completed
yet, but prosecutors have requested 13 years
imprisonment for the former mayor of Zhanaozen for
embezzling public funds. The trials of opposition
leaders, charged with inciting rioting are
expected to start this month.
accused are the Alga party leader Vladimir Kozlov,
politician Serik Sapargali, theater director Bolat
Atabaev, and journalist Zhanbolat Mamay.
On June 4, the largest trial of 37
Zhanaozen residents charged with organizing and
participating in the riots last December 16 ended
with disorder in the courtroom in Aktau, the
administrative center of Mangistau region in
Nagashybayev was unable to finish reading out the
sentences as indignant relatives and friends of
the defendants began shouting and throwing objects
at him. Meanwhile, the defendants attempted to
break the glass barriers that separated them from
the audience, triggering an intervention by the
Most of the defendants at
this trial, however, will not serve jail time.
Three were acquitted, five amnestied, 16 were
given suspended sentences, and 13 were imprisoned
from three to seven years. The court made a clear
distinction between those who organized the riots
and those involved in theft, arson, and looting.
Among the organizers who will serve prison
time are seven leaders of the oil workers' strike
that started in May 2011 and evolved into the
violent riots in December.
charged as the main organizer of the riots, was
the only one that received a seven-year prison
term, to be served out in a low-security facility.
Tuletaeva was the main spokesperson for the
striking oil workers and provided information to
the media and international organizations.
Tuletaeva and other defendants claimed during the
trial to have been tortured in detention.
Influential strike leader Maksat
Dosmagambetov was convicted to a term of six
years. Another trade union activist, Talgat
Saktaganov, will serve four years in a low
security prison. Naryn Dzharilgasinov and Kanat
Zhusipbaev will serve a six-year term each,
Shabdal Utkilov was sentenced to five years of
imprisonment, and seven other people received jail
sentences of three to four years.
separate court case, 12 protesters were tried for
rioting in the village of Shetpe when a train was
set on fire and one person died from shotgun
wounds in the unfolding police shooting. The court
acquitted one defendant, suspended the sentence of
another, and amnestied six more, but four
protesters were judged liable and sentenced to
terms ranging from four to seven years.
Kazhymurat Avezov received the harshest
sentence of seven years in a high security prison.
The court also imposed fines upon the 11 persons
found guilty, in the amount of 16,296,000 tenge
(about US$108,000), to cover the property damage
On May 28, five former senior
police officers were jailed for between five and
seven years in addition to the confiscation of
their personal property and a five-year ban on
holding any law enforcement position after their
Kabdigali Utegaliyev, former
deputy chief for Mangistau, was convicted to seven
years in prison. The former head of the regional
anti-extremist department, Bekzhan Bagdabaliyev;
the former deputy chief for Zhanaozen, Yerlan
Bakytkaliuly; and the former regional police
investigator, Rinat Zholdybayev, have been jailed
for six years, and Nurlan Yesbergenov, the former
investigator at the Zhanaozen town police, for
The police officers were
convicted of "abuse of power or official
authority, resulting in serious consequences, with
the use of weapons". Prosecutors stated in court
that the police response to the rioters was
disproportionate in some cases; they could have
used other methods such as rubber bullets and
batons instead of firearms.
On May 17, the
former head of a Zhanaozen pre-trial detention
facility, Zhenisbek Temirov, was sentenced to five
years in jail and seizure of property for holding
people illegally and failing to provide timely
hospitalization to Bazarbai Kenzhebayev, who later
died in the hospital. He will have to pay
compensation to the family of the deceased.
On May 24, the city court of Zhanaozen
sentenced the former Razvedka Dobycha KazMunayGas
managing director for safety, health and
environmental protection, Serik Baymuhanbetov, to
eight years in prison and confiscation of property
for using his office position to embezzle public
On similar charges, the former
general director of LLP Munay Ekologiya Co, Duman
Aripbaev, and the former top manager of this
company, Unerbek Alshimbaev, were each sentenced
to seven years in prison and confiscation of
The Prosecutor General Askhat
Daulbaev stated during the investigation that, by
embezzling funds designated for development
programs, local officials and oil company
executives contributed to rising social tensions
and prolonging the strike that eventually
culminated in mass rioting.
two former mayors of Zhanaozen and the former
deputy governor of Mangistau region are on trial
for corruption and embezzlement. Additional
charges may be brought against other local
officials and oil company managers.
Margarita Assenova is a
professional journalist and political analyst with
over 25 years of experience in print and broadcast
media, including Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty.
In 1997 she was awarded the John Knight
Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford
University for her reporting on nationalism in the
Balkans. Assenova has authored book chapters on
security, energy and democracy published by CSIS
Press, Brassey's, Freedom House, and Bertelsmann