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Kazakhstan: Zhanaozen Trial Opens in Tense Atmosphere

Security face angry relatives of defendants on the first day of trial in connection with the December 2011 Zhanaozen riots. (Photo: Joanna Lillis)

Kazakhstan’s efforts to mete out justice relating to the Zhanaozen violence late last year appear to be exacerbating the prevailing sense of unfairness among residents in western regions of the country.

The first Zhanaozen prosecutions opened on March 27 in the Caspian Sea city of Aktau. In all, 37 defendants are being tried on a variety of charges, including organizing and participating in the unrest, arson, assault on representatives of the state and looting. At least 16 people were killed in the Zhanaozen events.

There were angry scenes at the first hearing. Officials initially prevented friends and relatives of the accused from entering the courtroom, instead directing them to a side room where there was no video feed of the proceedings. Some objected to this arrangement and burst into the courtroom before the trial opened, engaging in minor scuffles with police. Ultimately authorities relented and permitted some to enter the courtroom.

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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan: Zhanaozen Trial Opens in Tense Atmosphere

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