CJFE Welcomes Canada's Efforts to Find Truth in Kazakhstan

Friday, December 13, 2002
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) welcomes news that two Ontario coroners have arrived in the Kazakhstani capital of Almaty to investigate circumstances surrounding the death of Leila Bayseitova. "We are gratified that Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham made good on his commitment to push for the truth in this case," CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy said. "And we call on Kazakhstani authorities to extend full co-operation to the two Ontario experts now investigating the case." Leila Bayseitova was the daughter of journalist Lira Bayseitova, who published an expose last June about secret Swiss bank accounts held by senior Kazakhstan government officials. A day after the story appeared, her 25-year-old daughter Leila was arrested on a drug charge. While in police custody, she lapsed into a coma and died. The authorities said at the time Leila tried to hang herself using her jeans as a noose. But there is troubling evidence that her arrest led to mistreatment while in custody. Kazakhstan has up to now rejected calls for independent forensic tests by foreign experts. CJFE presented Lira Bayseitova with its International Press Freedom Award at its annual dinner on November 13 in Toronto. Minister Graham was keynote speaker at the event and he undertook at the time to push Almaty to allow an in-depth investigation into Leila Bayseitova's death. On Monday, Ontario Chief Coroner Dr. James Young and Dr. Michael Pollanen, also with the Ontario coroner's office, arrived in Almaty and began investigating the circumstances surrounding Leila Bayseitova's death. The pair has been talking to local officials and examining documents and photos. They are expected to decide soon whether to exhume the remains for further study. CJFE is an association of more than 400 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Joel Ruimy at (416) 515-9622 e-mail: [email protected]

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