Kazakh Activist Who Claimed Torture After Zhanaozen Oil-Strike Crackdown Buried

ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh activist who was imprisoned for organizing an oil workers' strike that ended with a deadly police crackdown has been buried following his death from cancer.

Maqsat Dosmaghambetov, who claimed he was tortured in jail, died at the age of 35 last week and was buried in the southwestern city of Zhanaozen on October 1.

Hundreds of oil workers, rights activists, friends, relatives, and colleagues attended a funeral ceremony held near Dosmaghambetov's home.

Dosmaghambetov was one of several activists who were imprisoned for organizing a monthslong strike in Zhanaozen in 2011.

Police moved to disperse the unarmed protesters that December, fatally shooting at least 16 people in a crackdown that was condemned by Kazakh and international human rights groups.

Dozens of activists and several police officers and local officials were tried and sentenced to prison over the protest and the response.

Several leading independent and opposition media outlets were banned by President Nursultan Nazarbaev's government following the Zhanaozen crackdown.

Dosmaghambetov was convicted in 2012 of "organizing public disturbances" and sentenced to six years in prison.

He was the first of 22 defendants in the case who accused guards at a detention center of torture.

Their claims were rejected by a court, but a medical examination revealed that Dosmaghambetov's jaw and one of his ribs were broken.

Doctors who later examined his swollen jaw diagnosed him with cancer.

Oil workers had initially called for the funeral ceremony to be held in Zhanaozen's central square or at a new mosque in the city, but it was held near his home instead.

Nazarbaev, 78, has been in power in the energy-rich Central Asian country since before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Rights activists and critics say Nazarbaev has persistently suppressed dissent, prolonged his time in office through undemocratic votes, and used the levers of power to neutralize potential opponents.