- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
- HAYDEN: Intelligence, evidence and the case against Russia
- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
- Activists vow to occupy fast-food restaurants to get higher pay
- Rep. Luis Gutierrez: Senate Dems wary of immigration politics
- Summer camp for 1 percenters: Sushi, limos and shopping at FAO Schwarz
- Colorado gun crackdown law found to be built on faulty data
- Hank Aaron steps to fundraising plate for Democrat Michelle Nunn
- ISIL terrorists blow up burial site of Jonah, vow more of same
Rights groups decry ‘torture’ of Kazakh detainees
Question of the Day
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Human rights officials are calling for the suspension of a trial of more than three dozen people who say they were tortured after being arrested for taking part in protests in Kazakhstan.
“In order to show that there is a zero-tolerance policy toward torture in places of detention, the trial should be suspended contingent on an impartial, independent and thorough investigation into these allegations,” said Mihra Rittmann, a Central Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
The defendants face charges including arson, looting, assault and “inciting social discord” during demonstrations in December. Sixteen people died after police opened fire on protesters in the town of Zhanaozen, in Kazakhstan’s oil-producing region of Mangistau.
Among those on trial in Mangistau’s capital of Aktau are oil workers who had been outspoken in their demands for better pay and conditions, as well as leading opposition politicians.
During the trial, which began March 27, some defendants have told of being beaten, partially suffocated with plastic bags, deprived of sleep and threatened with rape during their detention.
“Most of the 37 defendants have been through [torture],” said Galym Ageleuov of the Almaty-based human rights group Liberty, who has been monitoring the court proceedings in Aktau.
Mr. Ageleuov added that 10 of the defendants have bullet wounds and one is suffering from tuberculosis contracted in while in detention.
What had started as peaceful demonstrations by oil workers who been on strike since May 2011 transformed into riots on Dec. 16 in the town square, where celebrations marking Kazakhstan’s 20 years of independence were due to take place.
The events in Zhanaozen are seen as the most significant public unrest in the country’s post-Soviet era, during which time President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s rule has been virtually unchallenged.
Andrei Grishin, a journalist working with the Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law, says the government is using Zhanaozen as an excuse to target opposition politicians.
“Why not use it against those who have long been a thorn in the [government’s] side?” he said. “Zhanaozen is a great opportunity to get rid of these people.”
After the Jan. 15 parliamentary elections in which Mr. Nazarbayev’s ruling Otan Party won more than 80 percent of the vote, protests erupted in the economic center of Almaty and the capital, Astana, over the government’s handling of Zhanaozen and accusations of electoral fraud and human rights abuses.
The protests have become a monthly event, with the next planned for Saturday.
“The concerns that are coming out in these rallies address the arrests of political opposition activists who are being charged with inciting social discord, [using] an over-broad and vague law that Human Rights Watch believes can be used to incriminate activity that is protected under international human rights law — [such as] freedom of speech issues,” Ms. Rittmann said. “[The rallies also] raise concerns about the investigation … as well as the trial itself.”
Human Rights Watch reports that many of those taking part in the rallies this year have been arrested and placed under administrative detention for short periods of time, or fined.
TWT Video Picks
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ready for different route to title
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- PRUDEN: The Democratic-wannabe mice under Hillary Clinton's feet
- Tom Petty: 'No one's got Christ more wrong than the Christians'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq