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Kazakhstan31 December 2004

Call for reopening of investigation into death of online journalist who was hit by car

Reporters Without Borders called for the investigation into online journalist Askhat Sharipzhanov’s death to be reopened today, two days after an Almaty court sentenced Kanat Kalzhanov to three and a half years of hard labour for running him down with his car on 16 July. Sharipzhanov died five days later from his injuries.

"The enquiry did not shed light on the unexplained aspects of this accident," the press freedom organisation said. "We call on Almaty prosecutor Sattybek Ongarbaev to reopen the enquiry as it clearly ignored disturbing elements."

Sharipzhanov was knocked down by Kalzhanov’s car at around 11 p.m. just after leaving the offices of Navigator (www.navi.kz), the popular, independent news website he worked for. That afternoon, he had interviewed Altynbek Sarsenbayev, the new information minister, and Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a leading member of the opposition to President Nazerbayev.

The transcripts of these interviews were missing from his computer the next day. His tape recorder was also missing. "These details cast doubt on the official account of the accident," said Navigator editor Yuri Mizinov, a member of an independent commission of enquiry conducted by the Journalists in Danger Fund.

Mizinov said Sharipzhanov’s injuries did not match those usually found in a traffic accident. He had no fractures or visible injuries to the body and none of the internal organs of his torso were hurt. He died from a cerebral haemorrhage caused by cranial traumatism. This would have been the result of a violent blow to the back of his head, whereas the car hit him head on.

Furthermore, an autopsy showed no alcohol in his blood, contradicting the official claim that he was drunk at the time of the accident.




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