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Brothers Sue Kazakh Police After Finding Themselves On Terror List

  • RFE/RL

Kazakh plumber Samat Kozhaniyazov (right) and his brother Sanat (left) say they only found out they'd been included on a government terror list when they received phone calls from anxious relatives.

Kazakh plumber Samat Kozhaniyazov (right) and his brother Sanat (left) say they only found out they'd been included on a government terror list when they received phone calls from anxious relatives.

In an unprecedented trial in northwestern Kazakhstan that began on September 13, two brothers are suing local police for placing them on a list of suspected terrorists with the country on high alert.

Samat Kozhaniyazov, a 43-year-old plumber, found himself on a list of suspects in what authorities described as a series of deadly attacks carried out by Islamic militants in the city of Aqtobe on June 5.

Kozhaniyazov's younger brother, 41-year-old oil worker Sanat, was listed among suspected militants killed in a shootout with security forces during the same attacks.

They are demanding $30,000 compensation for "moral damages," in a country where the average monthly salary is around $400-$500.

Kazakh authorities say the attacks -- on two gun stores and a military unit in Aqtobe, the capital of a province of the same name -- were carried out by a group of some 25 militants.

Shortly after the incidents, regional police issued names and photos of several men who authorities said took part in the assaults, which killed five civilians and three security troops. The lists appeared on media outlets and social media.

The Kozhaniyazov brothers say they first found about the lists when they got phone calls from anxious relatives.

The brothers insist they have no connection to Islamic extremism.

"I don’t even pray," Samat Kozhaniyazov told Kazakh media.

The siblings insist they never left their native village of Zhanabulak -- some 100 kilometers from Aqtobe -- on the night of the deadly events in the provincial capital.

'Bearded' Suspects

Residents and officials in Zhanabulak stand by the Kozhaniyazovs, saying the brothers had hosted a memorial service on June 5 for their father, who died a year ago.

The village leader, Samat Kozhaniyazov, told RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service that he sent Samat Kozhaniyazov to the district police department on June 9 "in order to stop the spread of the false information" about the brothers.

Kazakh media reported that police officials have acknowledged the mistake and apologized to the Kozhaniyazovs.

The brothers, however, want more than just an apology.

The older brother says he has been suffering from stress-related health problems since finding his name among the "bearded" suspects:

"I only sleep three or four hours a night," he told Kazakh media. "Doctors prescribed me sedatives."

The brothers say they want their "clean reputation" restored.

Meanwhile, Kazakh authorities say they have concluded a probe into the Aqtobe attacks, which they link to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Thirty people will stand trial in connection with the attacks, the National Security Committee announced on September 5.

Authorities say 18 of the gunmen were killed by security forces who confronted the group on June 5.

Written by Farangis Najibullah with reporting by RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service and Kazakh media
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