Kazakhstan: Perpetrators of journalist attack convicted, masterminds still to be brought to justice

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) welcomes news that four perpetrators of the brutal April 2012 attack on Kazakhstani journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov have been convicted, but calls for intensified efforts to also bring to justice the individual(s) who ordered the attack.
On 10 July a court in the West Kazakhstan province found Askhat Takhambetov, Mursalim Sultangereev, Almaz Batyrkhairov, and Manarbek Akbulatov guilty of attempted murder. They were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 11 to 14 years and to payment of a total of 4 million tenge (some 20,000 EUR) in moral damages to Akhmedyarov. Takhambetov was deemed to have organized the attack, Sultangereev to have acted as driver and Batyrkhairov and Akbulatov to have carried out the actual assault on the journalist. The defendants were acquitted of a second charge of participation in an organized criminal group.

The conviction in this case is welcome, in particular as it is an exception to the common pattern in Kazakhstan in which those guilty of attacks on journalists are never found and held responsible. However, while it was established during the investigation that the attack on Akhmedyarov was ordered, the masterminds are still at large, with a separate investigation underway. In Akhmedyarov’s words, the job is only “half-done” until all details of the attack have been clarified and those who ordered it have been identified and prosecuted.

Lukpan Akhmedyarov was repeatedly stabbed and shot at with an air gun outside of his home in the city of Uralsk in April 2012. As a result, he was seriously injured and required lengthy hospital treatment. A journalist with the Uralskaya Nedelya, Akhmedyarov is known for articles critically examining the activities of authorities and other public actors. He has faced several defamation suits because of such writings. He has also organized and participated in peaceful protests against official policies.

Together with Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law and 17 other NGOs, IPHR sent a letter to Kazakhstani authorities shortly after the attack on Akhmedyarov, calling on them to vigorously investigate the attack and to pay particular attention to uncovering its motives and its possible links to the journalist’s professional and civic activities.