Accessibility links

Breaking News

Slain Kazakh Opposition Leader's Relatives Demand Interrogation Of Nazarbaev, His Daughter

Altynbek Sarsenbaev's bullet-riddled body was found on February 13, 2006, two days after he had gone missing.
Altynbek Sarsenbaev's bullet-riddled body was found on February 13, 2006, two days after he had gone missing.

Relatives of Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly have demanded that President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev allow investigators to question his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbaev and his daughter Darigha Nazarbaeva, the current Senate speaker, over the 2006 assassination of the opposition leader.

Kazakh opposition politicians, journalists, civic activists and rights defenders gathered in Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, on February 11 to honor the memory of Sarsenbaiuly, who was shot dead execution-style along with two associates 14 years ago.

At a meeting in the Astana Hotel to mark the anniversary of his demise, Sarsenbaiuly's older brother, Raiymbek Sarsenbai, presented a report he authored regarding the killings, saying that many questions linked to the tragedy remain unanswered and that state authorities should be interrogated about what happened.

"To make Nazarbaev's questioning possible it is necessary to rescind the law on the leader of the nation that gives Nazarbaev lifetime immunity from prosecution and [President] Toqaev must met that demand of ours," Sarsenbai, a journalist, said.

He added that the former leader of the Committee for National Security, Alnur Musaev must also be questioned in the case. Musaev lives in self-imposed exile in the European Union.

Sarsenbaiuly (aka Sarsenbaev), a former Kazakh ambassador to Russia and Information Minister, was a co-chairman of the opposition Naghyz Aq Zhol (True Bright Path) party when he, his bodyguard Bauyrzhan Baibosyn, and driver Vasily Zhuravlyov, went missing on February 11, 2006. They were found dead two days later in the mountains near Almaty with their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds to the back of their heads.

The slaying of the opposition leader deepened a sense of shock in the Central Asian country three months after another influential opposition politician, Zamanbek Nurqadilov, was found dead with two bullets in his chest and one in his head at his home in Almaty. The death of Nurqadilov -- a former government minister and Almaty mayor who joined the opposition in 2004 and accused Nazarbaev of corruption -- was officially declared a suicide.

Both politicians were interviewed in July 2004 by prominent independent journalist Askhat Sharipzhanov, who was found bloodied and unconscious the same day with a fractured skull. He died several days later in hospital.

Police said he had been hit by a car, but friends and colleagues said his injuries suggested he had been struck in the head before being hit by a vehicle.

Sarsenbaiuly's killing was officially declared to have been motivated by personal enmity. A former chief of staff of the Kazakh parliament, Erzhan Otembaev, was convicted of ordering the slaying and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

However, in 2013, Otembaev's sentence was annulled after Kazakh authorities announced that the case had been sent for review based on newly obtained evidence they said indicated that Rakhat Aliev, Nazarbaev's former son-in-law, had ordering the killing.

Aliev, who was deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee when the slaying took place and became a fierce opponent to Nazarbaev in 2007, was in self-imposed exile in Europe at the time.

Aliev was later arrested by Austrian officials at the request of authorities in Astana, which accused him of involvement in the kidnapping and murder of two Kazakh bankers.

In February 2015, Aliev was found hanged in a Vienna jail.

Austrian officials ruled Aliev's death to have been suicide, but many in Kazakhstan believe he was murdered while in Austrian custody.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service
NOTE: The author of this article is a brother of the late journalist Askhat Sharipzhanov.