ASTANA - Agence France-Presse
An opposition supporter (C) shouts in front of a police officer during a rally. REUTERS photo
Kazakhstan on Monday handed down prison sentences of between five and seven years to five policemen for their involvement in unprecedented riots that left 15 dead in December.
The district court in the oil-rich Mangistau region said it had sentenced deputy head of the regional police department Kabdygali Utegaliyev to seven years in a penal colony, and anti-extremism department head Bekzhan Bagdabayev to six years in a penal colony. Two more senior police officials, Yerlan Bakytkaliuly and Rinat Zholdybayev also received six years, while another policeman, Nurlan Yesbergen, will serve five years. All five have been stripped of the right to serve in the police for the next five years.
At least 15 people were killed when a longstanding wage strike in Zhanaozen, a town in the heart of the nation's vital oil industry, degenerated into clashes between workers and their supporters and police. Authorities said in some instances police exceeded their authority.
Earlier this month authorities handed down a five-year sentence to a former police station chief whose suspect died in custody after being grabbed in a security sweep following the riots.