Kazakhstan: 7 Aktobe Gunmen Get Life in Prison
A court in the the city of Aktobe on November 28 sentenced seven men to life in jail for their role in a group shooting spree earlier this year. Another two men accused in direct involvement in the violence of June 5, when eight people, including three soldiers, were shot dead by a group of attackers that had seized weapons from shops stocking hunting supplies.
Eighteen people charged with abetting the attackers received jail terms of between two and five years.
Investigators have said the group were Islamic extremists and followers of the Salafist current.
According to the Aktobe regional court service, the defendants were given the last chance to speak on November 21, when they appealed for clemency and not to be given life sentence, so that they could one day return to their families.
The fullest account of the state’s case provided to date has become from Aktobe-based newspaper Evrika, which obtained and published a copy of the prosecution indictment in October. The indictment describes a man called Dmitry Tanatarov, who was killed on the day, as the main organizer of the bloodshed. It states Tanatarov converted to Islam in 2009 and fell under the sway of “extremist religious ideologues.” It said Tanatarov had aspired to go fight in Syria, but lacked the funds and decided instead to create his own militant group in Aktobe. He is said to have shared his thoughts about his ambitions to embark on a violent jihad with a friend, Arman Aituganov.
Balgabek Myrzaev, a representative with the state’s religious affairs committee, told Aktobe newspaper Diapazon in an interview how it was that the other defendants came to meet with Tanatarov and Aituganov. Myrzaev said that visits to the detention facilities holding the suspected attackers led him to conclude that this pair were the organizers of the bloodshed.
The trial appears to have revealed multiple details about the mechanics of how the group came together and acted on the day on June 5, but it is not yet evident that broader lessons have been learned about how to prevent similar acts in future.
The main policy response so far has been President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s creation of a Religious and Civil Affairs Ministry, headed by a former aide, Nurlan Yermekbayev. Time will tell if this can help turn a corner.