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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Kazakhstan murder trial 'a farce'
Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly
Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly was found shot dead on a roadside
Relatives and colleagues of a murdered Kazakh opposition leader say they have lost faith in the judicial process.

Ten men are on trial for the killing of Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly, who was shot with his driver and his bodyguard in February.

But lawyers for the three victims walked out of the trial on Monday and opposition lawmakers have described proceedings as a farce.

The shooting sparked political turmoil in Kazakhstan.

Mr Sarsenbaiuly was the second opposition leader to be found dead in a matter of months, and the brutal manner of the killing shocked a country which had a reputation for stability in an unstable region.

Rumours that political intrigue lay behind the killing began to spread immediately.

The authorities attempted to calm the public mood by arresting 10 suspects, including a former senior politician and five agents from the security forces.

They say the 10 suspects killed Mr Sarsenbaiuly because of an article he published in the media attacking the most senior defendant, Senate administration chief Yerzhan Utembayev.

But Mr Sarsenbaiuly's supporters and relatives have condemned every aspect of the investigation and say the arrests were an attempt to deflect attention from the real culprits.

'Plot'

Lawyers for the victims want to hear more testimony from one of the defendants, Rustam Ibragimov.

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He has alleged that the kidnapping was ordered by senior officials and was part of a coup plot against President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

But Mr Ibragimov has not retaken the stand and the judge halted the trial when Mr Utembayev said he would take questions regarding Mr Ibragimov's allegations.

Opposition lawmaker Tulegen Zhukeyev told a news conference he did not want to add legitimacy to the trial after the witness testimony was curtailed.

"There is no way to believe the court has any intention of getting to the truth," he said. "It seems the authorities believed the trial was getting out of control.

Relatives of the murdered politician accused the Kazakh intelligence services, the National Security Committee (NSC) of being behind the crime.

"The NSC masterminded it, NSC officers carried it out, the NSC hindered the investigation and now it is preventing the court from establishing the truth," Mr Sarsenbaiuly's brother, Rysbek, said.

In a statement, the victims' families accused judicial officials of doing "everything to shield the state from any responsibility for this crime".




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