Kyrgyzstan29 February 2008
Concern voiced about delays in investigation into the murder of Alisher Sayipov
Reporters Without Borders urged authorities in Kyrgyzstan to start again from scratch in their inquiry into the murder of ethnic Uzbek journalist Alisher Sayipov after fears were voiced at foot-dragging in the investigation, at a meeting in Stockholm on 26 February.
Exiled Uzbek journalist, Shahida Tulaganova, said she was “pessimistic” about the outcome of the case and was convinced that Uzbek security services were implicated in Sayipov’s death. This view was supported by Swedish journalist, Elin Jönsson, who worked with Sayipov.
“The authorities owe us an explanation,” Tulaganova told the round table conference on press freedom in Uzbekistan and the Sayipov murder, organised by the worldwide press freedom organisation’s Swedish section.
“We urge the Kyrgyz authorities to start again in their investigation into the murder of Alisher Sayipov, not forgetting the link with his work, given his stance in relation to the Uzbek government,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Sayipov had written numerous articles about the regime of President Islam Karimov and the state of human rights in Uzbekistan and was often the target of campaigns of denigration in the Uzbek media. Many of his colleagues are convinced that his death was linked to his work.
The day after his death, the spokesman for the Kyrgyz president said that it was a “priority” to “resolve the case”, but four months later, the investigation has been suspended and hopes have faded of seeing those responsible convicted.
While Sayipov’s family believe investigators should probe the involvement of the Uzbek security services, The Kyrgyz interior minister Olzhobai Kazabayev on 30 October 2007 dismissed that hypothesis, and referred to an official report claiming that Sayipov had links with radical Islamic movements.
The head of the department for the fight against organised crime, Melis Turganbayev, in December informed journalists that the inquiry was focusing on religious extremists and criminal gangs. He added that he had “photos of two unidentified suspects”. But no arrests followed and no further information was ever given about these two suspects.
Spokesperson for the interior ministry, Olzhobai Kazabayev, told Radio Free Europe on 4 February 2008 that the investigation had suspended because the two suspects had not been arrested.
Adding to the confusion, the minister himself said the investigation was suspended for various reasons, particularly because the deadline for the preliminary inquiry had expired. He added that the investigation would resume, focusing on political and religious reasons, as well as the journalist’s links with drug-trafficking. Yet again, nothing was said about a connection with his work.