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Kazakh Prosecutor Seeks Prison Terms In Bus Fire That Killed 52 Uzbeks

Investigators determined the cause of the fire was an open flame on a portable gas cooker.

AQTOBE, Kazakhstan -- A state prosecutor is seeking prison terms for five Kazakh men on trial over a bus fire that killed 52 Uzbek citizens in Kazakhstan in January.

On October 30, Osman Orynbasaruly asked the judge in the high-profile case to find the defendants guilty.

The prosecutor called for five-year prison sentences for three drivers and seven-year prison sentences for two employees of Asia Transit Service, the Kazakh company that owned the bus.

The drivers were charged with involuntary manslaughter and violating fire-safety regulations in vehicles, while the two employees were charged with using a technically unfit vehicle for commercial purposes.

One of the employees, a low-level manager, was was also charged with negligence and forging documents.

All five men pleaded not guilty when the trial started on September 3.

The fire occurred in the northwestern region of Aqtobe on January 18 as the bus was en route from Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan to the Russian city of Samara.

Investigators later determined the cause of the fire was an open flame on a portable gas cooker that was being used by passengers for heat during the long journey.

Officials have said the bus was a 29-year-old German-built Setra that did not have a license to transport passengers.

Authorities also said the vehicle's technical safety certificate had expired in 2016.

Many migrant workers from Uzbekistan travel to Russia along several lengthy routes passing through Kazakhstan.

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