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Kazakh Hearings Begin Into Border-Guard Killings

Kazakh border guard Vladislav Chelakh, seen here in a publicly available video, has been charged with the killing spree.
TALDYQORGHAN, Kazakhstan -- Preliminary hearings in the case of a border guard accused of going on a deadly killing spree have started in Kazakhstan's Taldyqorghan garrison court.

Private Vladislav Chelakh of the Kazakh Border Guard Service has been charged with killing 14 fellow border guards and a forest ranger along Kazakh-Chinese border in May.

Chelakh, who was 19 at the time of the killings, initially admitted guilt but then recanted, saying he had confessed to the murders under duress.

He was the 15th border guard on duty at the outpost at the time.

RFE/RL's correspondent reports that the court has already rejected requests by Chelakh's lawyer for additional investigations, the videotaping of the trial, and a revision of the defendant's confession.

It is expected that the preliminary hearings will decide on the venue for the trial.

It could be held in Taldyqorghan, the capital of the Almaty Oblast and the region where the killings took place, or in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty.

The military prosecutor's office said in mid-October that Chelakh had tried to hang himself in custody, using a pair of sweat pants.

His reported confession has sparked wider controversy, including the resignation of a newscaster who suggested elements of the story being broadcast were "lies."

His parents insist he is innocent, adding that he showed nothing but enthusiasm for becoming a border guard and wrote excitedly of at arriving at the remote post where he was assigned.
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