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Charges line up in Kazakhstan

Jan. 26, 2012 at 10:41 AM

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Authorities in Kazakhstan said three opposition leaders are facing charges for inciting striking oil workers in the country to turn to violence.

Kazakh Prosecutor General Askhat Daulbayev said opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov, newspaper editor Igor Vinyavsky and former presidential candidate Serik Sapargali are charged with inciting violence in the western city of Zhanaozen, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

Clashes between security forces and demonstrators followed strikes in Zhanaozen in December. At least 15 people were killed. A video circulated on YouTube shows demonstrators apparently getting shot by riot police, though security officials claimed victims were struck by ricochets.

Authorities said three police officers also face charges related to the violence.

Human Rights Watch said it appears Kazakh authorities are trying to silence government critics despite promises of a transparent investigation into December violence.

Protesters loyal to the opposition in Kazakhstan demonstrated earlier this month after the ruling Nur Otan party of President Nursultan Nazarbayev won 80 percent of the vote.

The country recently passed a law meant to abolish a single-party rule, though the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the recent elections fell short of international standards.

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