ASTANA, March 27 (Itar-Tass) —— The first day of the trial of the instigators and active participants of the Zhanaozen riots in December 2011 caught unprecedented public attention.
The trial is on in Aktau, the administrative center of the Mangistau region in western Kazakhstan, where Zhanaozen is situated. It takes place on the premises of the Arman youth center, which was supposed to accommodate everyone wishing to witness the trial. Yet the expectations proved false, Supreme Court spokesperson Oksana Peters said.
The local media reported that the room could accommodate only 300 people, among them the families of the victims and the defendants, representatives of human rights and public organizations and journalists. The number of people wishing to see the trial appeared to be much larger. About 200 had to stay outdoors. The opposition demanded to hold the trial in another facility, but regional administration head Baurzhan Mukhamedzhanov declined the demand. He said there were no vacant space for doing that. At the same time, he ordered to install monitors in a court building where families of the defendants were admitted with special passes.
The trial started with a long delay, in the afternoon instead of the morning. Presiding Judge Orazbai Nagashybayev explained the delay with the non-appearance of a defendant released on his own recognizance.
The trial is being held in the Kazakh language. There are 37 prisoners in the dock, two of them underage. The media said that the majority of the defendants had secondary education, were the breadwinners to their families and had two or more children. They are charged with starting disturbances, which were accompanied with violence, pogroms, arsons, property damage, attacks on law enforcers, looting and thefts. The possible punishment is from three to twelve years.
More than 100 victims – owners of burned vehicles, restaurants, shops and offices – and 45 witnesses are attending the trial. There are six public prosecutors and twelve defendants.
No incidents happened on the first day of the trial. Observers noted that the security was tight. The traffic around the building was restricted, and police cordons were placed.