Kazakh police raided hospitals to round up victims of protest crackdown - report

Protesters and human rights groups allege authorities have cracked down on those who participated in the protests

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 21 January 2022 12:53
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Kazakhstan protests: Dramatic scenes in Almaty as protests turn violent

Kazakhstan officials reportedly threatened to hunt down those who participated in deadly protests earlier this month in which at least 225 people were killed.

Witnesses say police visited hospitals looking for those who participated in the violent protests and told them not to protest again or be killed, according to a BBC report.

Asel, a protester going by a pseudonym, said she was shot in the protest and was receiving treatment at a hospital in Kazakhstan’s biggest city Almaty when uniformed men visited every ward looking for protesters.

“One of them shouted, ‘if you go out to protest again, we will kill you’,” she said.

Human rights groups have alleged the authorities are cracking down on peaceful protesters, with many now fearing arrest.

Muratbek Yesengazy, an activist who took part in the protest, was beaten up in detention, claimed his lawyer.

Bakhytzhan Toregozhina, a human rights activist in Almaty, said that there was “no presumption of innocence” for authorities.

“They are all potential terrorists for the authorities and they try to force confessions out of them.”

The mass protests which started out against soaring fuel prices, spiralled out of control and have led to the worst violence in the former Soviet Union territory in 30 years.

According to the government, some 50,000 people had joined the unrest. Tension spilled over on 5 January when crowds torched several government buildings, banks and shops in major cities across Kazakhstan.

Over 12,000 people have been arrested in connection with the violence in recent weeks.

Authorities have denied torturing any of the detained protesters.

Saltanat Azirbek of the Almaty police department said those who did not participate in the violence “should not worry”.

He added they would be released once the facts had been established.

Local journalist Timur Nusimbekov said “peaceful protesters, activists and journalists must not be confused with looters and bandits”.

Human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the use of force by security forces and authorities during and after the protests.

In a statement on 5 January, the group called for the unconditional release of those who were detained.

“Instead of threatening to crack down on protesters, the Kazakhstani authorities must resolve the situation peacefully by immediately and unconditionally releasing all those who have been arbitrarily detained and addressing past abuses committed by the state,” it said.

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