AQTOBE, Kazakhstan -- Five Kazakh men have been imprisoned over a bus fire that killed 52 Uzbek citizens in Kazakhstan in January.
A court in the northwestern city of Aqtobe on November 9 found three drivers of the bus guilty of involuntary manslaughter and violating fire-safety regulations in vehicles, and sentenced each of them to five years in prison, depriving them of driving licenses for seven years after they complete their sentences.
Two employees of Asia Transit Service, the Kazakh company that owned the bus, were found guilty of using a technically unfit vehicle for commercial purposes, and one of them was also found guilty of forging technical documents.
Each of them was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a colony settlement, a penitentiary in which convicts live close to a factory or farm where they work.
All five men pleaded not guilty when the trial started on September 3.
The fire occurred in the Aqtobe region on January 18 as the bus was en route from Shymkent in southern Kazakhstan to the Russian city of Samara.
Investigators later determined the cause of the fire was an open flame on a portable gas cooker that was being used by passengers for heat during the long journey.
Officials have said the bus was a 29-year German-built Setra that did not have a license to transport passengers.
Authorities also said the vehicle's technical safety certificate had expired in 2016.
Many migrant workers from Uzbekistan travel to Russia along several lengthy routes passing through Kazakhstan.
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
RFE/RL's Radio Azattyq has been an important source of information for people in Kazakhstan for decades. In 2009, Azattyq won the prestigious 2009 Online Journalism Award for 'standing in defense of citizen's rights to seek and receive information.'
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