NUR-SULTAN -- Former Kazakh Interior Minister Qalmukhanbet Qasymov, whom rights defenders accuse of ordering police to open fire at a protest by oil workers, has become the chief of the Central Asian nation's State Guard Service.
President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev appointed Qasymov, a presidential aide and the secretary of the Security Council, to the new post on January 16, the presidential press service said.
Qasymov led the Interior Ministry for eight years before he became the Security Council's secretary last February, just weeks before President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who led Kazakhstan for almost three decades, suddenly announced his resignation and picked Toqaev as his replacement.
Toqaev, 66, was inaugurated as Kazakhstan’s new president in June after an election that was marred by what international observers called "widespread voting irregularities."
Despite stepping down, Nazarbaev, 79, continues to control social, economic, and political spheres by leading the ruling Nur-Otan party and the influential Security Council. He holds the title of elbasy, or leader of the nation, which also gives him wide privileges, including lifetime immunity from prosecution.
Qasymov was harshly criticized by human rights defenders and civil right activists after police killed at least 16 people at the oil workers' protests in December 2011 in the southwestern town of Zhanaozen.
The State Guard Service is a state body that directly reports to the president. Its main duty is to provide security for both the country's president and Nazarbaev.