Kazakh court sentences Almaty gunman to death

By bne IntelliNews November 3, 2016

In a rare step, a local Kazakh court sentenced a man to death for killing 10 people in a shooting rampage this summer in Almaty, local media reported on November 2. 

The court in Kazakhstan's largest city of Almaty found Ruslan Kulekbayev, 26, guilty of murder, attempted murder and terrorism. The sentence is of significant importance since Kazakhstan issued a moratorium on capital punishment in 2004. Thus, Kulekbayev became the first person to receive the death sentence in the last decade. The last person to receive a death sentence was Rustam Ibragimov in 2006, after he was found guilty for murdering prominent politician Altynbek Sarsenbayev. Ibragimov’s sentence, however, was later commuted to life in prison. 

Kulekbayev’s lawyer, Gabit Kusainov, said Kulekbayev had no plans to appeal, since appealing would go “against his positions, convictions and the beliefs of Salafism”. In an attack on a police station in Almaty, Kulekbayev killed eight police officers and two civilians. Kulekbayev who freely admitted to the killings and stated he has no regrets, explained his motivation stemmed from his perception that police were mistreating devout Muslims.

Another five accomplices of the shooter, who did not face charges connected to the mass shooting, were accused of planning to rob a businessman together with Kulekbayev and received jail terms ranging between three to 11 years.

Kazakhstan witnessed a wave of alleged terrorist attacks earlier this year raising concerns that home-grown radicalism could be on the rise in the oil-rich Central Asian republic. Following the attacks, the authorities imposed the lightest level of terrorism alert in the country until January 15, 2017. Kazakh authorities stated in October, they were considering banning the Salafi branch of Islam.

The ongoing economic crisis, falling living standards and authoritarian government style combined with government corruption and justice system have increased social discontent in the country. The public rallies held in the country in April and May in response to land reform plans reflected people’s day-to-day frustrations with the economic downturn.

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