The younger brother of a recently convicted opposition figure in Kyrgyzstan has been murdered, injecting more anxiety into an already sour political climate.
Police said masked men burst into Ulan Salyanov’s home in Bishkek and killed him in the very early hours of November 6.
“According to preliminary information, the perpetrators shot twice from a firearm and then fled the scene. Salyanov died later in a local hospital,” police spokesman Nurbek Toktosunov said.
Salyanov’s sister, Aida, was last month handed a deferred five-year jail term on abuse of office charges that her supporters say were a politically motivated response to her opposition to the government.
There was no immediate indication Ulan Salyanov’s death was connected to his sister’s political activities, but the motives for the incident remain murky. Another sister of Salyanov, Chinara, told media that the killers did not steal anything from her brother’s home. She said that shots were fired after Salyanov intervened to protect his son, who was also in the house.
“The didn’t ask for money. Ulan asked them who they were and what they wanted. At that point, one of the attackers took a gun and put it to Abai’s temple. Ulan lunged to try and protect his son,” Chinara Salyanova was quoted as saying by 24.kg news agency.
The Interior Ministry was quick to insist that the episode had no political undertones.
But member of parliament Ulan Jumakov has said publicly that he is worried about his colleague Aida Salyanova’s safety and demanded she be provided with a security detail.
“I think that the killing wasn’t accidental. When Aida Salyanova was serving as General Prosecutor, in 2012, she led the fight against organized crime and she earned a lot enemies. They could come now and take their revenge,” Jumakov said.
Jumakov said the Salyanov family is still at a loss to understand what motivated the killing.
“He wasn’t a politician or a big businessman. He was just a simple painter and decorator, a chiropractor, who dealt on the side in buying and selling cars,” Jumakov said. “They took nothing from the house, which you would normally get when you’re talking about a burglary.”
Civic activists known for their robust criticism of the government have ventured even bolder claims.
“We have no more illusions about these authorities. The killing of the brother of an opposition MP is political. The police, which is headed by the bodyguard of [President Almazbek] Atambayev can pretend all it likes that it is undertaking a frenzied investigation. But it is all clear,” said rights activist Dinara Oshurkhanova.
Another outspoken activist, Edil Baisalov, is similarly convinced that there was more to this incident than a robbery gone wrong.
"Four bandits in masks wearing army boots. This doesn’t look like a domestic crime, a robbery, but a contract killing. Why would so-called robbers come to the home of what was, frankly, a poor man, when there are so many homes of rich people?” he wrote on Twitter.
Although Aida Salyanova was sentenced to serve five years in jail on October 10, she is only due to begin serving the term once her now-two-year old child turns 14. Political observers have speculated that Salyanova’s case was fabricated in retaliation for her vocal opposition to amendments to the constitution forced through by President Atambayev.
Multiple opposition politicians have been jailed in recent months, often on highly flimsy grounds.