Russian authorities have agreed to allow the father of a baby who died after he was taken into care when his mother was detained for violating migration laws to be classified as a complainant in the ongoing investigation into the death.
The legal distinction will allow Rustam Nazarov to press for further probe into the ultimate cause of 5-month old Umarali’s death in St. Petersburg in October. Under his previous status as witness, Nazarov was not authorized to make those demands.
Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on December 3 that lawyers for Nazarov has been fighting for the decision over a two-month period.
The case has sparked a wave of anger among people in Tajikistan, where grievances have long simmered over the ill-treatment often doled out to their countrymen in Russia.
Umarali’s mother, Zarina Yunusova, says her child was taken away from her by force, a claim that police in St. Petersburg have staunchly denied. Police have said that the baby was taken into care with Yunusova’s consent.
Russian government medical experts concluded in November that Umarali had died from acute cardiopulmonary failure resulting from a cytomegalovirus infection. No independent examination has been carried out and the child’s parents have been denied access to the final medical report.
Lawyers for the family, as well as some officials in Tajikistan, have expressed skepticism about the accuracy of the verdict.
Only Yunusova had previously been registered as a complainant in the case, but she was unable to pursue demands for fresh investigations after being deported to Tajikistan on November 16.
Although some Tajik government representatives have expressed misgivings about the case off the record, none have come out in open criticism of how authorities in Russia have handled the episode for apparent desire to avoid straining relations between the two countries.
Critics of Tajikistan’s government have suggested they may have connived in expediting Yunusova’s departure from Russia as a way of stymying investigations.
Up to 2 million Tajiks, many of them without the correct paperwork, are believed to live and work in Russia and send back cash that is a lifeline to the Central Asian nation’s beleaguered economy.