The head of a media rights group in Kazakhstan has been stabbed as he was on his way for discussions with a diplomat and international media experts about shrinking press freedoms in the country.
The head of civil society group Ar.Rukh.Khak, Bahytzhan Toregozhina, wrote on her Facebook account that Ramazan Yesergepov, 61, was on an overnight train from Almaty to Astana on May 14 when the attack took place.
It is not immediately clear what precipitated the attack.
Yesergepov, who heads the Journalists in Trouble nongovernmental group, had been due to raise the issue of a jailed newspaper editor, Zhanbolat Mamay, who is awaiting trial on charges that he used his outlet to launder money. Mamay’s supporters say the case against him is political motivated.
Yesergepov has also spent time behind bars, on charges of revealing state secrets.
Another local media rights activist, Rozlana Taukina, told Sputnik-Kazakhstan news website that Yesergepov was in the train vestibule, where passengers typically gather to smoke surreptitiously or engage in other social activities, when he was attacked. Taukina said Yesergepov was stabbed in the stomach by an unknown assailant.
“While the train reached its closest station, he spent two and a half hours losing blood. Nobody was able to offer him first aid. It was just the train attendant sitting with him, and all he could do was call the nearest police station and an ambulance,” Taukina said.
Doctors have said Yesergepov was treated for his injuries and that although the wound was deep, no vital organs were damaged.
The activist’s friends and family have said that they are hoping for more information soon about the circumstances of the attack and that they are frustrated by the conflicting accounts so far. Yesergepov is not yet in a fit condition to offer his own version of events.
Yesergepov was formerly editor of an obscure and sporadically published Almaty-based newspaper called Alma-Ata Info. In August 2009, he was sentenced to three years in jail for purportedly reproducing classified information in an article in his newspaper. He has since lobbied to have his conviction overturned, arguing that he was denied a fair trial.