Vikram Ruzakhunov (file photo)
BISHKEK -- A well-known Kyrgyz jazz musician who was arrested in Kazakhstan during deadly anti-government protests in January says he is in Almaty, where investigations into his alleged beating and torture by Kazakh police officers have started.
Vikram Ruzakhunov told RFE/RL on September 27 that he arrived in the Almaty region a day earlier and has met with a Kazakh investigator involved in the probe.
"The meeting [with the investigator] was fruitful. Today, we will visit the crime site, where I was detained and tortured. We will hold face-to-face confrontations with identified individuals," Ruzakhunov said.
Ruzakhunov said earlier that he had suffered a chest injury, broken ribs, a concussion, and multiple bruises while in Kazakh custody.
Anti-government protests sparked by a fuel-price hike erupted in Kazakhstan in early January. President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has publicly blamed what he said were “extremists” trained abroad for attacking Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, during the unrest. He has not produced any evidence to back up the claim.
Ruzakhunov's situation was amplified when a Kazakh television channel showed a video in which he said he was recruited by an unspecified group to take part in the unrest for $200. In the video, severe bruises can be seen on Ruzakhunov's face, leading to speculation he was forced to make the statement.
The video sparked protests in Kyrgyzstan, where Ruzakhunov was immediately recognized by his fans. He was freed several days after his arrest and allowed to go to Bishkek after the Kyrgyz government demanded his release.
Kazakh officials said earlier that six people were tortured to death after being arrested for taking part in the protests and 238 people died during or after the unrest, which was violently dispersed by law enforcement and the armed forces.
The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office has said 25 people were officially considered victims of torture as investigators used hot irons during their interrogations.
Human rights groups insist that the number of killed during the unrest may be much bigger, presenting proof that many peaceful demonstrators and persons who had nothing to do with the protesters were killed by police and military personnel following an order by Toqaev to "shoot to kill without warning."
In July, police in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, concluded that Kazakh authorities had inflicted severe injuries on Ruzakhunov's body during his illegal arrest in January.