ALMATY, Kazakhstan — A military court in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, has sentenced seven men to prison terms between three and eight years after finding them guilty of taking part in deadly clashes.
A road-rage brawl in early February sparked wider violence between ethnic Kazakhs and Kazakh citizens from the ethnic Dungan minority — a Muslim group of Chinese origin, in the southern Zhambyl region.
The violence in the villages of Sortobe, Masanchi, Auqatty, and Bulan-Batyr left 11 people dead and dozens injured, including 19 police officers.
More than 30 houses, 17 commercial buildings, and 47 vehicles were destroyed or damaged in the ethnic clashes.
More than 20,000 people, mostly Dungans, fled villages where the violence erupted.
The seven ethnic Kazakhs were sentenced on September 29 by the Military Court of the Almaty Garrison that also found some of the defendants guilty of theft.
In April, an ethnic Dungan was found guilty of hooliganism and inflicting bodily harm and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Another Dungan was handed a suspended prison term on the same charges.
In all, more than 50 people were arrested following the deadly clashes and more trials in the case are expected.
Many of the Dungans who fled violence ended up in the neighboring Kyrgyz region of Chui where the majority of Central Asia’s Dungans reside.
Kazakh officials say the majority of the displaced Dungans returned to Kazakhstan several days later.
Many senior regional officials, including the Zhambyl region’s governor Asqar Myrzakhmetov and local police chief, were sacked by Kazakhstan’s central government in the aftermath of the clashes.
Dungans, also known as Hui, are Sunni Muslims who speak a dialect of Mandarin that also uses words and phrases borrowed from Arabic, Persian, and Turkic.
Their ancestors fled China in the late-19th century after the Chinese government’s violent crackdown of the Dungan Revolt of 1862-1877, and settled in Central Asia, then part of the Russian empire.
The total number of Dungans now living in former Soviet republics is about 120,000.
Most reside in Kyrgyzstan’s northern region of Chui and Kazakhstan’s neighboring region of Zhambyl.