Kyrgyzstan - "Disgraceful" lack of progress in Sayipov murder investigation, one year later



    MONTREAL, Oct. 24 /CNW Telbec/ - 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."
    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.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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