KAZAKHSTAN: Killers of Murdered Muslim to Escape Justice?

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 27 September 2002

Nearly eleven months after the murder of a devout Muslim by officers of the National Security Committee (NSC, former KGB), Keston News Service has learnt after a visit to his home town that the criminal investigation into his death has been halted. Kanat Beimbetov died in hospital in his home town of Kentau near Turkestan in South Kazakhstan region on 3 November last year, eight days after being arrested by NSC officers and severely beaten (see KNS 14 January 2002). Beimbetov's relatives told Keston in Kentau on 22 September that a series of investigators have handled the case and it has now been closed. "We have given up hope of securing justice."

Kanat's father, Maksad Beimbetov, and the murdered man's aunt Zhupargul Khalmurazova told Keston that the case had been halted for the first time on 30 May, but the family had managed to get it reopened for the second time on 13 June, only for it to be closed again on 22 August. "In all, five investigators have looked into the case of Kanat's death," they reported. "The last of these, an investigator into very serious cases at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, police lieutenant colonel Galmyzan Kzylkhodzhayev, even sympathised with us, but told us frankly that he was only there 'for show' and that his superiors had set him the task of closing the case."

Kzylkhodzhayev confirmed that the case had been closed, but refused to discuss his investigation. "The case of Beimbetov's murder was halted because there was not enough evidence," he told Keston on 25 September by telephone from the Kazakh capital Astana. "I am not allowed to talk to the press without special permission, and so I will not comment on your questions."

According to Maksad Beimbetov and Zhupargul Khalmurazova, NSC officers visited them at their workplaces and tried to intimidate the murdered man's relatives with the help of their bosses. "The NSC put all our family members under surveillance," Khalmurazova told Keston. "They even intimidated my children. The NSC officers told us straight: 'Stop complaining before it is too late'." Relatives point to the fact that the NSC officials who killed Kanat were not even sacked, but were simply transferred to jobs in the regional centre, Chimkent. "In other words, they were virtually promoted."

Human rights activists have echoed the family's concern over lack of progress on prosecuting those responsible. "I hope that we will nevertheless manage to see justice done and that the case into Beimbetov's murder will be reopened and the NSC officers who murdered him will get what they deserve," the chair of the Almaty Helsinki group, Ninel Fokina, told Keston on 25 September by telephone from Almaty. "Recently, we managed to secure justice in a similar case, when a policeman who had murdered someone he was investigating was sentenced to prison."

In the wake of Kanat Beimbetov's arrest on 26 October 2001, NSC officers began to beat him severely and demanded that he admit to connections with Uzbek Islamic terrorist organisations. Beimbetov died on 3 November in hospital in Kentau as a result of the beating. A criminal case over his death was launched on 4 November.

Under pressure from the NSC, the court's medical expert analysis concluded on 6 November that "the cause of Beimbetov's death was acute kidney failure. The acute kidney failure could have been caused by an allergic reaction to the introduction of some sort of medical preparation." However, the same medical expert analysis found extensive injuries on the corpse: "an internal injury to the thorax, accompanied by fractures to the ears and 11 ribs, injuries in the form of bruises and scratches in the thoracic region, on the trunk, and on the higher and lower extremities, and an internal injury to the skull."

"Beimbetov's only 'crime' was that he was a committed believer and attended the mosque regularly," Mahbuba Aimetova, a member of the Bar in Chimkent region, told Keston in Chimkent on 7 January. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Almaty became actively involved in the case, and its officials visited Kentau to carry out their own investigation. "Kazakhstan signed the United Nations Convention against Torture," Birgit Kainz, human rights officer at the OSCE mission in Kazakhstan, told Keston by telephone on 11 January. "We too hope that the authorities will carry out an independent investigation and that those responsible will be punished."

Eleven months after the murder, and with the investigation into it halted, it is evident that the NSC officers who murdered Beimbetov still keep the town's residents in a state of fear. "If I had realised straight away why you had come, I would have refused to work with you," a taxi driver told Keston on 22 September in Kentau. "Kanat's murderers are very influential and I do not want to get mixed up with them." (END)