Police in Zhanaozen, scene of fatal unrest last December, have ruled out a political motive in the murder this month of a witness to December’s turmoil.
Aleksandr Bozhenko, 23, was killed in a fight, Zhanaozen police chief Amangeldy Dosakhanov was quoted as saying by the local Lada newspaper. He said two suspects have been arrested for the incident, which happened in the early hours of October 7.
Bozhenko never recovered consciousness and died in a hospital on October 11, but his death only came to light on October 15.
Activists have voiced suspicions over Bozhenko’s death, pointing to his testimony in the trial of former oil workers and other civilians accused of crimes related to clashes in and around Zhanaozen that left 15 dead.
Bozhenko, activist and trial monitor Galym Ageleuov told a press conference on October 15, was at one trial a prosecution witness who had incriminated civilians in the dock -- but recanted his testimony in court and said it had been obtained under torture.
Many of those convicted of crimes related to the unrest also told the court that they had been tortured in the aftermath of the violence. EurasiaNet.org documented allegations of police abuse at the time.
An inquiry led by the Zhanaozen security forces (the same bodies which were accused of the torture) found the allegations of abuse to be groundless.
The authorities have acknowledged one case of abuse in custody, however: that of Bazarbay Kenzhebayev, who died after a beating in detention. The officers who inflicted his injuries have not been identified, but the head of the detention center was later jailed for five years on negligence charges.