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The politician, the astrologer and a murder that could change Kazakhstan

A high-profile murder trial of a former government minister in Kazakhstan has been followed by millions and shone a spotlight on the country’s domestic violence problem.

After a landmark sentence saw a once powerful politician held to account for his wife’s murder, and a new law brought in, it has raised the question about whether there could be justice for other victims.

The facts, as laid out by the court, were horrifying.

The country’s former economy minister had beaten Saltanat Nukenova to death in an assault that was partly in plain view of CCTV cameras.

Just after 07:15 local time, footage from a restaurant in the capital Astana captured Kuandyk Bishimbayev hitting and kicking Saltanat, and dragging her by the hair.

Exactly what happened over the next 12 hours is less clear. Some of it was captured on his own mobile phone – footage shown to the court, but not the public.

Audio captures Bishimbayev insulting Saltanat and questioning her about another man. The court heard Bishimbayev rang a fortune teller several times, as his wife lay unconscious in the VIP room – where there were no cameras.

An ambulance was finally called just before 20:00. She was already dead – and potentially had been for as long as six to eight hours, according to the post-mortem examination.

The forensic examination, detailed in court, reported that Saltanat sustained a brain injury from external bruises, abrasions and wounds; 230 millilitres of blood had collected between her skull and surface of the brain. There were signs of strangulation, the court was told.

Bishimbayev’s relative, Bakhytzhan Baizhanov, the director of the food court complex where the restaurant was located, was sentenced to four years in prison for concealing a crime. He claimed during the trial that Bishimbayev asked him to delete surveillance footage.

On 13 May the Supreme Court in Astana sentenced Kuandyk Bishimbayev, 44, to 24 years in prison for the murder of Saltanat Nukenova, 31.

But in Kazakhstan – where hundreds of women die at the hands of their partners each year – securing a conviction wasn’t a given. Aggressors are brought to justice in only one in four domestic violence cases in the country, the UN estimates.

Many women remain too scared to come forward.

As Saltanat’s brother says, Kazakh women have been “screaming before, but they’ve never been heard”.


Source: BBC

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