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Kazakh Official Says Six protestors Were Tortured To Death

Kazakh Deputy Prosecutor-General Aset Shyndaliev (file photo)

Kazakhstan's deputy prosecutor-general, Aset Shyndaliev, says six people were tortured to death after being arrested for taking part in January anti-government protests that led to the removal of former President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his relatives from the oil-rich Central Asian nation's political scene.

Shyndaliev said in a statement on June 29 that 232 individuals died during the protests, which were violently dispersed by law enforcement and armed forces. The previous death toll provided by the authorities was 230, including 19 law enforcement officers.

Shyndaliev added that eight officers of the Committee of National Security (KNB) and a police officer had been arrested on a charge of torturing suspects. Overall, he said, 15 officers are suspected of using torture and illegal methods of interrogation on people arrested during and after the unrest.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said earlier that 25 people were officially considered victims of torture by hot irons, which investigators used on them during interrogations related to the deadly unrest.

Shyndaliev's comments come amid demands by rights activists and some who survived the brutality for more transparency to get justice for the victims in ongoing probes over the use of torture.

Thousands of people were detained by officials during and after the protests, which President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said were caused by "20,000 terrorists" from abroad, a claim for which authorities have provided no evidence.

The unrest occurred after a peaceful demonstration over a fuel-price hike in the tightly controlled nation's western region of Manghystau on January 2 led to widespread anti-government protests.

Human rights groups say the number of people killed was much higher than any of the figures provided by officials. The groups have provided evidence proving that peaceful demonstrators and people who had nothing to do with the protests were among those killed by law enforcement and military personnel.

The government has not published the names of those killed during and after the unrest and has rejected calls by domestic and international human rights organizations to launch an international probe into the deaths.

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