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10 Jan, 2022 09:03

‘Terrorist’ jazz musician released by Kazakhstan

Vikram Ruzakhunov set free after uproar in neighboring Kyrgyzstan
‘Terrorist’ jazz musician released by Kazakhstan

A Kyrgyz jazz musician has been released from custody by Kazakhstani security officials after appearing in a “confession” video, in which he admitted to taking part in violent demonstrations for payment, media reported on Monday.

Vikram Ruzakhunov was accused of terrorism by the Kazakh authorities, a charge leveled against thousands of demonstrators who took part in last week’s anti-government protests, which eventually turned into rioting and looting. The jazz musician’s identity was revealed on Sunday when Kazakhstani media released a video of the performer with a bruised face, where he verbally conceded being a paid protestor. Concerns were expressed that the clip was recorded under duress.

Kyrgyzstan is a neighbor of Kazakhstan, and Ruzakhunov is well known in both nations.

Following a public outcry, protests, and statements by Kyrgyz officials, Ruzakhunov was released on Monday morning and is reportedly being taken back to his native country.

On Sunday, after his detention the head of the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiyev, told reporters that Ruzakhunov is “not a terrorist,” but “an ordinary citizen, a musician, a decent man.”

“We checked through all of our channels this morning: Vikram Ruzakhunov didn’t participate in riots and street marches,” Tashiyev said.

The intelligence head was backed up by Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, who wrote on social media that he would fight to “protect all citizens” who “did not take part in the actions and are unfairly brought to justice.”

On Monday, the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Justice also sent a request to the country’s general prosecutor to investigate potential torture against Ruzakhunov.

The jazz musician was just one of over 5,000 people detained following a wave of marches-turned-riots last week, as violent demonstrators quickly took over from peaceful protestors expressing displeasure at fuel price hikes. Ensuing clashes with law enforcement led to multiple casualties, and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev claimed that the country was being attacked by foreign “criminals and terrorists.” After a request from the country’s capital, Nur-Sultan, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional security bloc led by Russia, deployed a multinational force to help quell the unrest.

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