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Kyrgyz Activists Protest Shooting Deaths In Kazakhstan

The activists demanded that the Kazakh president mourn for the deaths
The activists demanded that the Kazakh president mourn for the deaths
BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz activists have commemorated the victims of a police shooting in neighboring Kazakhstan by protesting in front of the Kazakh Embassy in Bishkek, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.
Some 20 activists from the For Democracy and Civil Society and Clean Nature nongovernmental organizations held a minute of silence on December 23 in front of the Kazakh Embassy and hung signs saying "Oil Is Cheaper Than Blood."
For Democracy and Civil Society leader Askhat Dukenbaev told RFE/RL that the shooting of unarmed people by police in the Kazakh city of Zhanaozen on December 16 "unveiled the real face of Kazakh authorities and has shaken Kazakh society."
"We demand that [Kazakh President] Nursultan Nazarbaev mourn all the killed citizens," he said. "They treated their own people like animals, chasing them and shooting them and smashing the wounded ones with truncheons. We consider it a crime against humanity."
Some 20 Kyrgyz police monitored the action in front of Bishkek's Kazakh Embassy.
Kazakh police and security troops opened fire at the protesting oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen in western Manghystau Oblast on December 16.
The Prosecutor-General's Office says 15 men and women were killed and almost 100 were injured. Other reports say the number of casualties was much higher.
The oil workers have been protesting for nearly eight months demanding a salary raise, that independent labor unions be able to operated freely in the region, and that lawyer Natalya Sokolova be released from her six-year jail term for "igniting social hatred" while aiding the striking workers.
Some 2,000 of the oil workers have been fired since joining the strike.
On December 17, police also clashed with oil workers protesting at the Shetpe railway station in western Kazakhstan after the protesters blocked a local railway. One protester was shot dead and 12 others were injured.
The events sparked further protests by oil workers and their supporters in the regional capital, Aqtau, and several other towns in the region.
The Kazakh authorities have defended their use of force in Zhanaozen against "hooligans," including the decision to use firearms. Officials have said that the police only shot into the air and at the ground and the resulting deaths were due to ricocheting bullets.
President Nursultan Nazarbaev has said that the police acted within their authority under the law.

Read more in Kyrgyz here and here