Prosecutors in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, have launched a criminal investigation into possible official negligence in the case of a suspected murder-suicide that has mobilized public anger over the ongoing practice of "bride kidnapping."
Relatives of the victim, 27-year-old Aizada Kanatbekova, have described a casually dismissive approach by an investigator at a crucial junction as the tragedy unfolded when Kanatbekova was still alive and able to call them a half-day after the abduction.
The bodies of Kanatbekova and the man who is thought to have abducted her along with accomplices in broad daylight in the capital were found in the getaway car on April 7, two days after the kidnapping.
An investigation oversight agency said on its website late on April 8 that the negligence investigation was handed over to the local office of the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (UKMK).
The tragedy sparked protests in several cities and calls for dismissals, including that of Interior Minister Ulan Niyazbekov.
After lawmakers demanded on April 8 that Niyazbekov report on the case, the minister said he bears "moral responsibility" for what happened to Kanatbekova.
Bishkek Police Chief Bakyt Matmusaev publicly apologized on behalf of the force for the young woman's death.
Investigators believe 36-year-old Zamirbek Tengizbaev strangled Kanatbekova with a shirt and then committed suicide by cutting a vein.
They also have said that Tengizbaev had three previous criminal convictions in Russia.
Four people have been detained on suspicion of helping abduct Kanatbekova on the street on April 5, an event that was caught by surveillance cameras that also showed passersby failing to help stop the kidnapping.
Kanatbekova's mother, Nazgul Shakenova, and an aunt told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that Kanatbekova phoned them separately almost 12 hours after her abduction.
She told them that her kidnapper, who initially intended to take her to the southern city of Osh, had agreed to release her and that they were on their way back to Bishkek.
The women said they immediately called the investigator assigned to the case -- identified as "Olarbek" -- in hopes that the calls could help locate Kanatbekova, but that the officer responded dismissively.
"Olarbek said: 'Don't worry too much. Everything is OK. You'll celebrate a wedding party soon," the aunt, Baktygul Shakenova, said. “I shouted at him, saying, 'What you are talking about?' A decent person cannot snatch a girl and keep her incommunicado for hours!"
Fluent in four languages, Kanatbekova was an only daughter and a graduate of the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University in Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan sees thousands of bride kidnappings each year despite criminalization of the practice in 2013.
The UN Development Program and rights groups have highlighted the ongoing prevalence in Kyrgyz society of the practice, which they say often leads to marital rape, domestic violence, and other ills.
One of the most notorious cases involved the stabbing death in 2018 of 20-year-old university student Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy by a man who was trying to force her into marriage.
In a statement on April 9, Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch urged the Kyrgyz authorities to “enforce existing laws and hold perpetrators [of Kanatbekova’s abduction] accountable.”
The authorities should also punish the officers responsible for the “flawed response” to the kidnapping.
“Otherwise, women and girls, like Burulai and Aizada, will continue to die, as police laugh on,” Sultanalieva said.