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Mother Of U.S. Cyclist Killed In Tajik Terror Attack Demands Compensation


Jea Santovasco with her son Jay Austin, one of four foreign cyclists killed in a terrorist attack in Tajikistan last year.

The American mother of one of four foreign cyclists killed in a terrorist attack in Tajikistan last year has said she will seek financial compensation from the Central Asian country.

Speaking to RFE/RL in a telephone interview on March 14, Jea Santovasco, the mother of Jay Austin, said she and an official from New Jersey -- her home state -- had met with the Ambassador of Tajikistan to the United States Farhod Salim and informed him about her intention.

Santovasco did not disclose the amount of compensation she was seeking from Tajikistan.

Santovasco said she needed the money to quit her job as a property appraiser to recover from the tragedy and find peace.

Austin was among a group of four cyclists -- including an American woman, a Dutchman, and a Swiss man -- killed on July 29 when attackers plowed into their group on a road and then stabbed some of them. The other three killed were Austin's girlfriend, Lauren Geoghegan, 29, who was also an American national, a Dutchman, and a Swiss man.

American Cyclists Speak Of Happiness Before Deadly Attack In Tajikistan
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Two other foreign cyclists survived the attack, which occurred about 150 kilometers south of the Central Asian country's capital.

Four suspects in the attack were killed by Tajik security forces. A fifth was found guilty of murder in November 2018 and sentenced to life in prison.

Santovasco told RFE/RL that she felt no anger to those who attacked her son and the other cyclists because "they were misguided."

However, she did fault Tajik authorities for failing to save her son, who was reportedly still alive some 30 minutes after the attack.

"Since I have got his autopsy report a couple of weeks ago I just think I will never accept his death. He was stabbed so many times from his face down to his ankles and none of those stab wounds were life threatening, so he did not die immediately," Santovasco said.

Santovasco said she had written a letter to the one surviving attacker, a Tajik national, Husein Abdusamadov, who in November was sentenced to life in prison, although she was unsure whether he ever got it.

"I am the mother of Jay Austin, a remarkable young man you deliberately, brutally murdered. Although I was not ready to say good-bye to my son, you have given him the greatest gift -- to live in peace in eternity. He has not died, only his physical body has." Santovasco wrote in the letter to Abdusamadov.

Written by RFE/RL correspondent Merkhat Sharipzhanov based on reporting by Khiromon Bakoeva of RFE/RL's Tajik Service
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