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Controversy Surrounds Investigations of Journalists Slain in Russia, Kyrgyzstan

Controversy is surrounding the high profile investigations of two slain journalists in Russia and the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports.

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor says in a statement that the preliminary investigation of the 2006 Anna Politkovskaya murder is over, ending with formal charges against three suspects from Chechnya.

They are identified as Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov. A fourth man, former FSB officer Pavel Ryaguzov, has been charged with extortion and abuse of office.

But Sergei Sokolov, an editor at Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper where Politkovskaya worked, told VOA that the investigation was conducted in a way that allowed alleged triggerman Rustam Makhmudov to escape.

Sokolov says if representatives of Russia's Federal Security Service and the Moscow Court had held their tongues and not leaked classified information, perhaps the killer would not be abroad but rather sitting in a courtroom.

Sokolov says investigators have also failed to identify who ordered the murder of Politkovskaya, who reported extensively on human rights abuses in Chechnya. She was gunned down in her apartment building in Moscow in October 2006. Her killing sparked international outrage, but former President Vladimir Putin downplayed her significance, saying the murder was probably organized by émigrés seeking to discredit Russia.

Meanwhile, Avas Saipov, the father of slain journalist Alisher Saipov - an ethnic Uzbek in Kyrgyzstan - says investigators have destroyed evidence from his son's murder in October 2007. The younger Saipov was well-known throughout Central Asia for his forthright focus on human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. He was also a stringer for VOA's Uzbek Service.

Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov and his security services are considered prime suspects in the killing.

In a letter to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Avas Saipov alleges that Uzbek security forces have penetrated law enforcement and the mayor's office in Osh, the southern Kyrgyz town near the border of Uzbekistan where his son was shot dead.

Avas Saipov also told the VOA that investigators ignored facts he presented in the case and were careless with the evidence.

The elder Saipov says investigators took Alisher's property, such as office equipment and documents. Some, he says, was returned, some not, portions were completely destroyed, and the son's office computer was broken and its parts were replaced.

A spokesman for the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry told VOA that a newly appointed Interior Minister is taking an active interest in the journalist's murder, and Avas Saipov says he believes the investigation could move forward under renewed leadership.

President Bakiyev has also paid personal attention to the Saipov case and the father says his letter could prompt the Kyrgyz leader to inquire if he had been misinformed about the earlier status of the investigation.