AKTOBE, Kazakhstan -- The trial of five Kazakh men began Monday (September 3) in Aktobe for their alleged involvement in a bus fire in January that killed 52 Uzbeks, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
The bus caught fire in Aktobe Province January 18 as it was en route from Shymkent, Kazakhstan, to Samara, Russia. Uzbek migrant workers often travel to Russia through Kazakhstan.
Three bus drivers face charges of involuntary manslaughter and violation of fire safety regulations, while two other defendants -- employees of the Kazakh company that owned the bus -- are accused of using a technically unfit vehicle for commercial purposes.
One of the two company workers also was charged with document forgery and with negligence.
All five defendants pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial.
A portable gas cooker that passengers used for heat caused the fire, said investigators.
The 29-year-old bus allegedly had no license for passenger transport and its technical safety certificate expired in 2016, said officials.