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Kyrgyzstan: Journalist Alisher Saipov's Murder Left Unsolved

By IWPR
Two years after the murder of leading journalist Alisher Saipov in Kyrgyzstan, the case remains unsolved and there is little sign his killer will be found and prosecuted.



On October 22, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement urging asked the Kyrgyz authorities to disclose the findings of the long-running police investigation.



Saipov, who was editor of the Uzbek-language newspaper Siyosat (Politics) in southern Kyrgyzstan, was shot dead in Osh on October 24, 2007, as he was getting into a taxi in the centre of town.



“Continued impunity in the killing… has fostered fear among his colleagues and undermined trust in the government’s ability to enforce the law,” said the CPJ statement.



Officially, the murder investigation is now closed and the judicial process is under way. Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiev has said the firearm involved has been found and positively identified. Yet details of the investigation have not been made public.



Saipov’s newspaper Siyosat was popular not only in southern Kyrgyzstan, where there is a substantial Uzbek diaspora, but also in neighbouring Uzbekistan because it carried articles about human rights abuses in that country and was critical of the hardline policies pursued by its president, Islam Karimov.



Saipov, who was an ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyzstan national, also wrote for foreign media outlets such as RFE/RFL, the Ferghana and Uznews websites, and IWPR.



Fellow-journalists are in little doubt that Saipov was murdered because of his reporting.



“Saipov was warned on several occasions that he should close his newspaper down, but he paid no heed,” recalled colleague Davron Khottamov. “After his death, no journalist dared to publish Siyosat.”



NBCentral Asia commentators say the prolonged silence over what the true motives for the murder were, and who ordered it, supports the contention that it was a contract killing.



Abdumalik Sarmonov, editor-in-chief of an Uzbek-language newspaper published in southern Kazakstan, said he himself received warnings because he republished articles by Saipov.



“After Alisher’s death, an official from the Uzbek cultural center in Shymkent [southern Kazakstan] came to me and said, ‘Did you see what happened to Alisher? He was killed for criticising the Uzbek authorities,’” said Sarmonov.



Gulasal Kamolova, a freelance journalist in Bukhara in western Uzbekistan said many people in that country “loved and respected” Saipov for the stance he took. She expressed doubt that the outcome of the Kyrgyz authorities’ murder investigation would be made public any time soon, although people in Uzbekistan were waiting for this to happen and regarded it as very important.



“Many people suspect that the Kyrgyz authorities have not found the murderers, and that is very unlikely the real murderer will be found or convicted,” she said.



Muhammad Solih, who heads the Uzbek opposition party from exile in Turkey, told IWPR he was conducting his own investigation into the case.



“I can’t rule out that it was the authorities in Uzbekistan who ordered the journalist’s murder,” said. “We already have some supporting evidence for this, and we will shortly be making it public.”



(NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service has resumed, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)