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Kyrgyzstan24 October 2008

“Disgraceful” lack of progress in Sayipov murder investigation, one year later

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On the first anniversary of Uzbek journalist Alisher Sayipov’s fatal shooting in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, Reporters Without Borders calls on the Kyrgyz authorities to relaunch the murder investigation, which has made no substantial progress and has been suspended twice.

“The lack of any substantial progress is disgraceful,” Reporters Without Borders said. “So far neither perpetrators nor masterminds have been identified. Such a degree of impunity is an outrage. The investigators should seriously consider the possibility that the murder was linked to Sayipov’s journalistic work instead of trying to explain it away in terms of his support for the Uzbek exile opposition party Erk or the contacts he may have had with banned religious groups.”

The press freedom organisation added : “Since Uzbek intelligence agents are suspected of being involved, the Uzbek and Kyrgyz authorities should work together on the investigation into this renowned journalist’s murder. Finally, we voice our support for Sayipov’s relatives and colleagues who will pay tribute to him today in Osh and we assure them we will not forget him.”

Sayipov was killed by three shots fired at close range - one hitting him in the head - as he left the Radio Free Europe office in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, at about 7 p.m. on 24 October 2007. Aged 26, Sayipov worked for RFE and Voice of America, and wrote for websites such as Uznews and Ferghana and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

Sayipov also published an Uzbek-language weekly, Siyosat, which covered both Kyrgyz and Uzbek political developments. A month before his murder, a regional television station in the Uzbek city of Namagan called him an “accomplice of the forces seeking to destabilise the country.”

(JPEG) During the first few days after his murder, the authorities said they were actively exploring the possibility of a link to his journalistic work and had not ruled out the possibility that Uzbek intelligence agencies were involved. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said he was personally involved in the investigation.

But contradictory comments followed, ruling out any link to his work as a journalist and suggesting that his death may have been connected to the contacts he reportedly had with banned Islamist groups in Uzbekistan such as Hizb ut-Tahir.

In February, the head of the anti-organised crime department said that the investigation had been suspended for “lack of evidence.” The new interior minister said the reason was “the expiry of the deadline for the preliminary investigation.”

The investigation was subsequently relaunched only to be stopped again at the end of March on the grounds that the police had been unable to identify a suspect. The second suspension was not announced and Sayipov’s parents only learned of it by chance when they went to a police station to recover his computer, which had been taken by investigators.

Sayipov’s father, Avas Sayipov, wrote to President Bakiyev in June accusing the Uzbek authorities of his murder and blaming the Kyrgyz authorities for failing to protect him.

In a response the same month, an interior ministry spokesman said the case was still be looked at and claimed that a group of investigators had carried out a great deal of work. While not disclosing any of the group’s findings, he insisted that if any evidence of Uzbek intelligence agency involvement was discovered, the Uzbek government would be told at once. Since then, no progress in the investigation has been reported.

An International Crisis Group report in February concluded that Sayipov’s murder was politically motivated and that the Uzbek intelligence services were probably involved.

  In this country
4 March - Kyrgyzstan
Journalist narrowly survives after being stabbed 21 times
25 November - Kyrgyzstan
Officials again rule out Alisher Sayipov’s journalism as motive for his murder
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Judicial harassment forces Bishkek newspaper to suspend publishing
16 June - Kyrgyzstan
President’s signature on broadcast law puts many media under threat
29 February - Kyrgyzstan
Concern voiced about delays in investigation into the murder of Alisher Sayipov

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