Reporters Without Borders condemns a Kyrgyz supreme court ruling on 9 December rejecting a request for further investigation into the 2007 murder of journalist Alisher Saipov and allowing the trial of a man accused of shooting him to continue. Saipov’s father, Avaz Saipov, had filed the request at the end of October.
“Given the current state of the investigation, the trial is unlikely to shed any light on Saipov’s death,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The judicial system’s haste and the weakness of the prosecution case could easily result in a miscarriage of justice. They will certainly not help to identify the real motives and masterminds of this prominent journalist’s murder.”
A Kyrgyz citizen of Uzbek descent based in the southern city of Osh, Saipov edited the Uzbek-language newspaper Siyosat and was a correspondent of the Russian news website Ferghana.ru and Radio Free Europe. He was gunned down on the street near his office in Osh on 24 October 2007.
Reporters Without Borders added: “The authorities clearly have no interest in completing the investigation and would rather close this sensitive case as soon as possible, especially as it would be diplomatically embarrassing if leads pointing to the Uzbek intelligence services were pursued. But the prosecution case rests solely on the statement of a witness who has never appeared in public.”
When the prosecution’s material evidence was produced for the first time before a local court in Osh in July, it was deemed to be insufficient by judge Koichubek Jobonov, who requested further investigation. His request was rejected by a regional court on 22 September and a new jury was appointed.
Worried by the prosecution witness’s absence at these hearings, Avaz Saipov filed his own request for additional investigation. The supreme court’s refusal means the resumption of the trial before the local court in Osh, with Abdufarit Rasulov, a villager from the southwestern region of Batken, as the main defendant.
Rasulov was arrested in February when traffic police discovered a large quantity of drugs in his car. They also found a Makarov revolver which, according to the police, was the one used to shoot Saipov. Rasulov, who claims the drugs and the gun were left in his car by someone to whom he gave a ride, denies any role in Saipov’s murder. He also claims he was tortured by his police interrogators.
The authorities claim that Rasulov was recognised by the murder’s only eye-witness, political scientist Ikbol Mirsaidov, who was accompanying Rasulov at the time of the shooting. Mirsaidov has never attended any of the hearings and has avoided any contact with the Saipov family since the murder.
The case has been marked by a complete lack of transparency for both the public and the Saipov family, with investigators and officials make contradictory statements. Officials had already claimed to have the murder weapon in their possession when it was suddenly “discovered” in Rasulov’s car. On 26 October, the interior ministry said it was seeking a second suspect identified as Sharakhmatullaev but provided no other details.
Saipov’s relatives have voiced the utmost scepticism about Rasulov’s alleged role as he had no motive and no connection with Saipov. Above all they condemn the fact that the investigators have ignored the fact that Saipov was under surveillance by the Uzbek intelligence services because his newspaper was very critical of the Uzbek government.