ALMATY -- Social Democratic Party leader Zharmakhan Tuyakbai has apologized for his role in persecuting the participants of a student demonstration in Almaty in 1986 that ended violently.
Tuyakbai made the apology while speaking to participants of the December 17, 1986, demonstration, in which a still unknown number of young Kazakhs were killed and injured and many others later persecuted by Soviet officials.
Tuyakbai was the deputy prosecutor-general of Soviet Kazakhstan in 1986. He expressed regret that he was on the other side of the barricades that ruined so many young lives, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Tuyakbai also said that within the current Kazakh government there are many former members of the Soviet Communist Party who played a crucial role in persecuting students 22 years ago, and he called for full access to archival documents about those events, which are kept in Moscow.
Meanwhile, about 300 people commemorated the victims of the 1986 student demonstration. Several opposition leaders and many who participated in the protests gathered near the Independence Monument in Almaty, the country's largest city and former capital.
The demonstration in Almaty is considered the first public anti-Kremlin protest of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost era.