Rustam Ibragimov, a former officer of Kazakhstan’s elite law enforcement unit who is serving life in prison for the kidnapping and murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly and two associates 18 years ago, has asked for a retrial, insisting that he was not involved in the high-profile assassination.
Ibragimov’s lawyer, Bolat Omarov, told RFE/RL on February 12 that his client provided details of a letter he wrote to President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev asking that his case be retried in an interview with the Zlobnaya Tateshka group.
Ibragimov, who initially pleaded guilty to organizing the abduction and killing of Sarsenbaiuly and his two associates in February 2006, now says that Rakhat Aliev, the late former son-in-law of Kazakh ex-President Nursultan Nazarbaev, the former chief of the Committee for National Security, Alnur Musaev, and an ex-employee of Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor-General’s Office organized the kidnapping and assassination.
Ibragimov further asserted in the interview that former Prosecutor-General Rashid Tusupbekov, former Interior Minister Bauyrzhan Mukhamedzhanov, his ex-deputy Qalmukhambet Qasymov, and other former officials “helped real criminals to avoid punishment, while innocent people were imprisoned.”
Neither Mukhamedzhanov nor Musaev was available for comment, while Qasymov and former chief investigator of the Interior Ministry, Gashi Mashanlo, refused to comment to RFE/RL on Ibragimov’s letter and statement. Tusupbekov’s whereabouts are unknown.
The developments come less than one month after Kazakh authorities unexpectedly allowed an event commemorating the 80th anniversary of the birth of the late opposition politician Zamanbek Nurqadilov, an outspoken critic of Nazarbaev.
On January 14, a special letter from Toqaev praising Nurqadilov’s contribution to Kazakh statehood was read at the ceremony to commemorate him. The event was unusual because, since Nurqadilov’s death, any public mention of the politician’s name and his apparent assassination had been taboo.
Nurqadilov was mayor of Almaty and chairman of the Emergency Situations Agency before he turned into a fierce critic of Nazarbaev and his government in 2004. He was found dead with two bullets in his chest and one in his head at his home in Almaty. Official investigators ruled that the death was a suicide, sparking a public outcry at the time.
Three months later Sarsenbaiuly and his associates — driver Vasily Zhuravlyov, and assistant Bauyrzhan Baibosyn — were assassinated. The killings were officially declared to have been motivated by personal enmity.
Another defendant in the Sarsenbaiuly case, 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, which they said indicated that Aliev had ordered the killing.
Aliev, who was deputy chief of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee when the slayings took place and later became an outspoken opponent of his former father-in-law, was in self-imposed exile in Europe at the time.
He was later arrested by Austrian officials at the request of authorities in Kazakhstan who 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 that Aliev’s death was a suicide, but many in Kazakhstan believe he was murdered while in Austrian custody.