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Mongolia: Trials Underway for Those Arrested in Riots

(Oct. 14, 2008) Courts in Mongolia have started to hear the cases of the 182 people charged with crimes in connection with July 1, 2008, riots in the country's capital city, Ulaanbaatar. The disorder had followed allegations of election fraud. Four district courts are trying 26 cases, covering 115 of the defendants. In one case decided on October 6, 2008, two defendants, accused of destruction of property, theft, looting, arson, and assaulting the police, were sentenced to seven years in prison; two others, who faced all the same charges except assault, were given four-year terms. (First Sentences Passed in Mongolia Riot Trials, NEWS.MN, Oct. 8, 2008, Open Source Center No. CEP20081008950421.)

Police have been accused of opening fire on the crowds during the riots, resulting in five civilian deaths. The head of the Investigation Unit of the General Prosecutor's Office, B. Galdaa, in discussing the investigation into police actions in July, stated that the fact that the accused officers are out on bail has no relevance for their guilt or innocence, and he dismissed any allegations that live bullets were not involved, stating “[I]t is certain that people died because they were hit by real bullets, and not rubber ones.” He added that spent casings from live bullets had been found. (Evidence Points to Mongolian Police Using Live Fire Against Rioters, NEWS.MN, Sept. 30, 2008, Open Source Center No. CEP20080930950249.)

In addition to the deaths and injuries to 383 people – most of them police officers – the riots damaged the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party building, which houses a number of offices. The building itself is estimated to have suffered about US$9.8 million-worth of damage. Organizations whose quarters were damaged include the Party itself and the police department. According to a court press officer, under Mongolian law those found guilty “will have to pay for the losses in some way.” (First Sentences Passed in Mongolia Riot Trials, supra.)