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Four convicted in brutal attack on critical Kazakh journalist

Allan De Los Angeles for the International Day to End Impunity/IFEX

A court in western Kazakhstan has sentenced four men to terms ranging from 11 to 15 years for carrying out the brutal attack on Kazakh journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov in April 2012, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes this conviction, but calls on Kazakh authorities to identify the masterminds behind the attack and bring them to justice.

"Authorities deserve credit for bringing the assailants to justice, but their work is not done," said Muzaffar Suleymanov, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia researcher. "The people who plotted this vicious assault must be apprehended and prosecuted."

A regional court in Uralsk on 10 July 2013 convicted Askhat Takhambetov, Mursalim Sultangereyev, Almaz Batyrkhairov, and Manarbek Akbulatov of the attempted murder of Akhmedyarov, local and international press reports said. News accounts did not immediately report background information on the defendants. The court also ordered the defendants to pay a total of 4 million Kazakh tenge (about US$26,000) in moral damages to the journalist.

The defendants were apprehended in November, seven months after they shot and stabbed Akhmedyarov outside his apartment building in Uralsk, the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz reported. Akhmedyarov, an award-winning reporter for the regional independent newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, was hospitalized for several days in critical condition.

Akhmedyarov told Uralskaya Nedelya in an April interview that he believed regional authorities had ordered the attack. "The probe against masterminds is ongoing, and I hope that we will learn the overall picture of the crime," he said.

Akhmedyarov had published articles in 2012 that condemned the regional authorities' unwillingness to address the December 2011 clashes between police and oil workers in the town of Zhanaozen. The journalist has also criticized President Nursultan Nazarbayev's government in the past.

According to Adil Soz, authorities in January announced a separate investigation into the masterminds.

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