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New Investigation Into 2006 Murders Leads To Partial Cancellation Of Original Conviction Of Yerzhan Utembayev

ASTANA, December 21 2013 – A new investigation into the murders of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Baurzhan Baibosyn, and Vasily Zhuravlev in 2006 has led to the partial cancellation of the conviction of Yerzhan Utembayev.

New evidence presented by the General Prosecutor’s Office suggests that former officials Rakhat Aliyev and Alnur Musayev ordered the murders.

The original investigation identified Rustam Ibrahimov and nine other persons as participants in the murders. They were all convicted to long jail sentences. Ibrahimov named Yerzhan Utembayev, Head of the Administration of the Senate, as responsible for ordering the murder of Altynbek Sarsenbayev.

In April 2012, Ibrahimov disclosed new information about the murder of Sarsenbayev. For the first time, Ibrahimov admitted carrying out the murder and provided details of how it occurred. He also claimed that Rakhat Aliyev and Alnur Musayev, both senior government officials at the time, had commissioned Sarsenbayev’s murder, and not Utembayev.

At the request of Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court, law enforcement agencies began an investigation to verify the accuracy of the new information. Representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the National Security Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs were involved.

At the request of the General Prosecutor’s Office, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) participated directly in the investigation and had full access to all case records.

The investigation established that in 2006 Ibrahimov told FBI agents assisting the original investigation that the real person who had ordered Sarsenbayev’s murder was Rakhat Aliyev. Ibrahimov refused to provide this evidence to Kazakhstan’s law enforcement agencies and asked for it not to be disclosed because of the threat to his family from Aliyev and Musayev. The FBI provided documentary evidence to confirm this information.

During the new investigation, Ibrahimov testified that Utembayev had ordered him to beat up Sarsenbayev as a result of a personal conflict between the two. Aliyev learned about this and together with Musayev used the opportunity to instruct Ibrahimov to murder Sarsenbayev under the guise of Utembayev’s order.

The investigation has confirmed in full Ibrahimov’s version of events based on material evidence and witness statements indicating that Aliyev and Musayev ordered and arranged the murder of Sarsenbayev and his two companions.

In August 2013, FBI polygraph specialists independently checked and confirmed the accuracy of the evidence provided by Ibrahimov and a number of key witnesses. The FBI’s findings in this investigation are consistent with those of the General Prosecutor’s Office.

On the basis of the new evidence, the General Prosecutor’s Office informed the Supreme Court on December 11 2013 of the need partially to review the verdict on the murders of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Baurzhan Baibosyn, and Vasily Zhuravlev.

On December 19, the Supreme Court partially cancelled Yerzhan Utembayev’s conviction based on the results of the new investigation.

The Supreme Court did not find a basis for reviewing the convictions of other participants in the murders since the new information brought to light had no implications for the classification of their actions.

On December 19, the Supreme Court sent the case to Almaty Region’s Specialized Inter-district Criminal Court for fresh judicial review.

If the Court decides to open a criminal case against Aliyev and Musayev, a preliminary investigation will begin with the participation of the FBI into their involvement in the murders of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Baurzhan Baibosyn, and Vasily Zhuravlev.

Further information on the results of the judicial review will be available later.