New York, December 9, 2009—Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court ruled today that the prosecution of a man accused in the 2007 murder of Alisher Saipov, editor of the Uzbek-language weekly Siyosat, can proceed, the independent news Web site Ferghana reported. Saipov’s family and colleagues have called the case bogus.
The ruling came in an appeal filed by the victim’s father, Avaz Saipov, who had asked the court to order a new investigation into the killing. Saipov told CPJ that investigators have left numerous questions unanswered, have failed to address several apparent discrepancies, and have kept his family in the dark.
Officials announced in April that they had detained a suspect and recovered the murder weapon, although they did not identify the man or disclose any other details for some time. By the time the case first reached Osh City Court in late July, Judge Koichubek Zhobonov found insufficient evidence to proceed and sent the case back to investigators. On appeal, prosecutors succeeded in overturning the decision and having the trial judge replaced.
Proceedings against the suspect, a local man named Abdufarit Rasulov, have continued this fall. Avaz Saipov, fearing that the case is not legitimate, filed his own appeal in late October. The suspect has denied involvement in the murder and has said that police beat him, the independent news Web site Uznews reported.
“The refusal to launch a new investigation into the murder of Alisher Saipov only adds to the impression that the Kyrgyz authorities are concerned less with justice than in closing a diplomatically embarrassing case,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “There have been serious concerns about the handling of the Saipov case since day one. Today’s court ruling further highlights those concerns. We urge the authorities to reconsider this decision and begin a new probe immediately.”
Saipov was shot at close range outside his downtown office in Osh in October 2007.
A Kyrgyz citizen of Uzbek ethnicity, Saipov had aggressively covered Uzbekistan’s political scene. A month before his slaying, state-controlled Uzbek media had smeared Saipov in publications and broadcasts, and the journalist reported being followed by Uzbek security agents. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Kyrgyz investigators said they were probing allegations that Uzbek security agents might have been involved in the murder.
CPJ research points to several discrepancies between earlier statements issued by authorities and their current assertions. In 2007 and 2008, investigators provided news outlets with a photo of two alleged assailants, and said they had already found the murder weapon. Authorities have said an eyewitness, local political analyst Ikbol Mirsaitov, identified the assailant, but they now say they cannot produce the witness in court.