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Kazakh Court Convicts 13 In Murder Case That Sparked Ethnic Tensions

Onlookers gather in the courtroom to watch the announcement of the verdict in the murder case in Qaraghandy on November 4.
Onlookers gather in the courtroom to watch the announcement of the verdict in the murder case in Qaraghandy on November 4.

QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh court has convicted 13 people in a high-profile murder case that sparked ethnic tensions in January.

The court in the central city of Qaraghandy on November 4 found 23-year-old Yusif Nurulu guilty of murder and hooliganism and sentenced him to 19 years in prison.

The 12 other defendants were found guilty of hooliganism for participating in a brawl in a restaurant in Qaraghandy in the early hours of 2019, in which a 23-year-old Kazakh man, Rakhymzhan Zhanseiit, was stabbed to death. Three other men were also stabbed but survived.

The incident has raised ethnic tensions after some Qaraghandy residents blamed the killing on non-Kazakhs.

Four of those convicted on November 4 were sentenced to three years in prison each and six were handed prison terms between 4 and 4 1/2 years.

The remaining two convicted men were released from custody due to a deal reached with the victim's family.

Those sentenced included several citizens of Armenia and Uzbekistan. The court ordered them deported after they finish their prison terms, and banned them from entering Kazakhstan for five years.

The second main suspect in the case, 22-year-old Narek Gururian, fled Kazakhstan to Russia shortly after the New Year's Eve incident, and was arrested there on a Kazakh request. His possible extradition to Kazakhstan is pending.

Officials in both Kazakhstan and Armenia have insisted that the brawl had no ethnic grounds.

Kazakhstan is home to dozens of ethnic groups and official propaganda frequently praises the government for preserving ethnic concord in the Central Asian state of 18 million.

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