ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced a former lawmaker from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Damirbek Asylbek-Uulu, to 10 years in prison on smuggling charges at a hearing that was interrupted by a fight between defendants.
In an April 24 ruling, the court in Almaty convicted Asylbek-Uulu of planning the illegal smuggling of goods and of participating in the operations of an organized criminal group.
After a break in the hearing following a brawl in the courtroom, his 11 co-defendants were convicted of similar crimes and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 14 years.
Asylbek-Uulu denies the charges and his lawyer, Asqar Baimuratov, contends they were fabricated.
After Asylbek-Uulu was sentenced, the judge, Bakhytkhan Baqyrbaev, left the courtroom and the 12 defendants were removed after relatives of the defendants began shouting and fighting broke out among some of the defendants.
Hours later, the defendants were brought back and the judge returned to the courtroom and pronounced verdicts and sentences for the other 11 defendants in the case.
Two other Kyrgyz citizens, Ulanbek Muradilov and Shyngys Abakirov, received 10 years in prison each.
A Kazakh businessman, Esbol Zhapbasov, was sentenced to 14 years and eight other Kazakh nationals received prison terms between three and five years.
Asylbek-Uulu was detained in Kazakhstan in February 2018 along with dozens of suspects including two other Kyrgyz nationals.
He was charged with creating a transnational criminal group and smuggling illegal goods from China to Kazakhstan and Russia.
Asylbek-Uulu and his co-defendants went on trial on October 19.