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Kazakhstan31 January 2007

Many aspects of French journalist’s murder still unclear as two men go on trial

The trial of two men accused of the 2 August 2006 murder of French journalist Grégoire de Bourgues opened today in Almaty. The police, who are still looking for third man, say Salavat Bolganbayev and Almaz Orlabayev are two burglars who killed De Bourges because he happened to be at home when they broke into his Almaty apartment.

De Bourgues’ family is being represented at the trial by Halina Nemerovskaya. The Reporters Without Borders partner organisation Journalists in Danger and a French embassy representative were also in court as observers.

“Many aspects of this case are still a mystery and we hope this trial will shed full light on this tragedy,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We also hope the police will continue to search actively for the third man and that the motives of the murderers will be explained in detail. The De Bourges family has a right to know why their 24-year-old son was killed.”

With judge Natalia Orlova presiding, the two defendants were today presented to the court. Inconsistencies emerged in Bolganbayev’s biographical details. Although previously thought to be single, he now claims to be married, and a woman in court identified herself as his wife. A witness who was the victim of a previous burglary by Bolganbayev described him as a man capable of taking a shower and cooking breakfast while one of his victims was tied to a bed. One of his previous lawyers - he has rejected several - described him as “provocative” and aggressive.” The trial was adjourned until 2 February after Bolganbayev said he wanted to change his lawyer again.

De Bourgues had gone to Kazakhstan for three months to help prepare an advertising feature which the Kazakh government had commissioned from SML Strategic Media. The police say he had the misfortune to be killed by three burglars who broke into his apartment and stole between 4,000 and 5,000 euros, a laptop and a mobile phone.

Reporters Without Borders visited Almaty from September 20 to 24 to investigate the case. During the visit, the deputy interior ministry undertook to allow the De Bourgues family and their lawyers and representatives to have access to the case file and to attend any trial that took place.

On 8 September, the family filed a request in Paris for a French judicial investigation, which was assigned to investigating judge Olivier Deparis. After being granted civil party status in this investigation on 20 November, Reporters Without Borders urged Deparis to travel to Kazakhstan as soon as possible.

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