Conflicts & War

Prosecutor’s office says January riots in Kazakhstan aimed at seizing power

Nursultan, Mar 14 (EFE).- Seizing power by force was the final objective of the mass riots in Kazakhstan in early January, in which 230 people were killed, including civilians and children, the Central Asian republic’s Prosecutor General, Berik Assylov, said Monday.

“The final objective (of the riots) was to seize power by force. (…) Actions were coordinated. It was obviously a planned action,” Assylov told the Mazhilis, the lower house of the Kazakh parliament, during the presentation of the preliminary results of the investigation into the January violence.

The prosecutor general said that the protests were diverse in character: the first wave consisted of peaceful rallies, which authorities did not prevent.

Many types of extremists joined the demonstrators and radically changed the protest, characterizing the second wave.

Criminal gangs joined the third wave, leading to disturbances and arson, according to the prosecutor.

“Armed radicals took advantage of the chaos to launch targeted attacks against different targets, that is, we saw a fusion of extremism, criminality and religious radicalism,” Assylov stressed.

Lawyer and human rights activist Aiman Umarova, head of the Aqiqat (Truth) Commission into the January riots, agreed with the prosecutor general.

“The trigger was undoubtedly the increase in gas prices in the Mangystau region (in western Kazakhstan), but it is difficult to say that only the socio-economic problems that have worsened over the past five years were the real reason for the January events,” she told the Mazhilis.

In her opinion, Kazakh citizens’ discontent was inevitable in the face of entrenched power, increasing corruption and the concentration of national resources in the hands of a certain group of people.

She also claimed that the mass riots had been planned by National Security Committee (KNB) agents and had been prepared for at least two years.

According to Umarova, the NSC’s subversive activity aimed to discredit Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

“The president paid special attention to human rights and the NSC, which has unlimited power and terrorizes people, saw this as a loss of control,” she said.

The lawyer also believes that the riots involved professionally prepared groups that came to Kazakhstan from abroad, as she witnessed in the main square in Almaty when she saw on January 5 many Asians who spoke neither Kazakh nor Russian among the demonstrators.

“We have information that since 2019 people have entered Kazakhstan from Afghanistan with a certain status and whose passport data were recently revoked after the January events,” she said, adding that she believes they have already left the country for Turkey or Europe.

The criminal investigation continues against NSC chairman Karim Massimov for the committee’s alleged involvement in organizing the mass riots.

“The former head of the NSC and three of his deputies, as well as two other heads, face charges of treason, attempted seizure of power, abuse of power and taking large bribes. The former NSC chief and three of his deputies have been arrested,” Assylov said.

They face up to 17 years in prison.

Another of his deputies, Samat Abish, nephew of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was removed from his post.

On Sunday, another of Nazarbayev’s nephews, Kairat Satibaldiuli, was arrested, accused not only of corruption but also of other crimes against national security. EFE


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