May 22, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Investigation must seek those behind attack on opposition journalist

A trial of the alleged attackers of Lukpan Akhmedyarov (Лукпан Ахмедьяров), begun on 14 May, was scheduled to resume on 22 May in the special regional court of Uralsk, in northwest Kazakhstan. Attackers tried to kill the high-profile dissident journalist in front of his home on the night of 19 April 2012. The initial investigation of the crime was a “farce,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But the investigation has been conducted professionally since it was restarted about one year ago – at least so far. Procedural safeguards have been respected, and the planned nature of the attack and its connection with Akhmedyarov’s work have been recognized.” However, “It remains essential that the investigation go to the heart of the matter by discovering those who ordered this savage attack,” the press freedom organization said. “The new trial session must be completely transparent.” The first part of the trial was open to journalists. But, at the defendants’ request, the press was not allowed to photograph and film the session. Four individuals stand accused of the crime: Almaz Batyrkhairov and Manarbek Akbulatov, the alleged attackers; Askhat Tahkambetov, charged with having planned the attempt under the orders of an unknown party; and Mursalim Sultangereev, accused of having driven the attackers to the site of the murder attempt. All four were indicted for attempted murder under article 96-24 of the criminal code. They are also accused of violating article 235 by forming an organized crime group, an allegation they deny. Batyrkhairov and Akbulatov admitted having attacked the journalist at Takhambetov’s instigation. But they declared that they merely wanted to scare him, not to kill him. The driver confessed to having transported the men but denied knowing their intention. And the alleged organizer denied all connection to the case. Local police conducted the first investigation. That led to the arrest in May 2012 of suspects who were mere scapegoats. They were released after a special team of investigators was sent from the capital city of Astana. Akhmedyarov told Reporters Without Borders during an interview in Astana in January 2013 that the two alleged attackers were in fact the men who assaulted him. He said that he had every reason to trust in the new investigation. The journalist is demanding that the defendants pay a total of 10 million tenge (51,540 euros) in damages and interest. But he said he would withdraw that demand if they name the person behind the attack. Akhmedyarov reports for the local Uralskaya Nedelya daily. He won the 2012 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. In the attack at the centre of the current case, Akhmedyarov was stabbed repeatedly, shot with an air pistol and beaten on the head. He was hospitalized for one month and then underwent a long course of therapy. At the moment Akhmedyarov face demands for a total of 28 million tenge (144,300 euros) in legal proceedings prompted by his work. These were clear attempts to silence his journalism. Kazakhstan is ranked 160th of 179 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Photo by : Uralsweek