SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan — A court in Kazakhstan’s southern city of Shymkent has decided to continue behind closed doors a trial concerning a series of deadly ammunition warehouse blasts in 2019. It cited classified materials in the case for doing so.
The chairman of the Shymkent Garrison military court, Berik Karim, told RFE/RL on January 13 that several video materials presented at the trial, which started last June, show sites that are classified and therefore the legal process was ordered to continue in camera.
Sixteen Kazakh military officers and Defense Ministry officials went on trial on June 11 over blasts that claimed four lives and injured dozens of residents in the town of Arys, 67 kilometers west of Shymkent, the third-largest city in the Central Asian nation.
The charges against the defendants include negligence and violating safety regulations while storing arms and ammunition.
Some 35,000 residents of the town fled their homes for Shymkent and nearby towns, returning days later after authorities lifted a state of emergency.
Kazakh officials said that 85 percent of the town’s buildings, mainly private houses, had been damaged by heavy smoke, shock waves, and flying debris from the blasts.
The government has promised to rebuild the houses, but many residents have complained that rebuilding efforts have been too slow.
After the blasts, hundreds of people rallied in Shymkent and blocked a major road demanding to be relocated permanently because they were afraid to go back as the June blasts were just the latest in a series of explosions to hit the depot since 2009.