Quotes by the Nazi and speculation of planned media campaign: Kuandyk Bishimbayev says his last words

Kuandyk Bishimbayev says his last words
Kuandyk Bishimbayev says his last words Photo credit: Diana Bizhanova/Kazinform

Trial of Kuandyk Bishimbayev, former economy minister, accused of murdering his wife, Saltanat Nukenova, in November of 2023, comes closer to an end in Astana. Today, the jury and the public watching the trial online heard the last words of the accused: Kuandyk Bishimbayev and Bakhytzhan Baizhanov, who is on trial for helping the former with the cover-up, Kazinform correspondent reports from the courtroom.

Bishimbayev started his speech with apologies to the Saltanat’s family and friends. He said that he specifically asked for an open trial with the jury in order for “at least one of the 10 to hear him out” and believe in his innocence.

“I insulted all the best that is in me, that is in each of the people. I understand this deeply, I worry about it, and I repent of it every day. My actions caused the death of the person I loved, the cause of grief for her family and friends. I once again ask for their forgiveness. I apologize to all citizens whose feelings were hurt by this event. I apologize to my parents, friends, relatives, and children. My mistakes marred their old age and brought shame, grief, anxiety and fear into their lives. But I want to say: neither my parents, nor my relatives are to blame for anything. It's only my fault and it's only my burden. At the same time, I firmly know that I have not wished, do not wish and will not wish death on anyone. Never, at any moment that evening, did I wish for the death of my wife,” Bishimbayev said.

However, he additionally stated that with the mass media influence and speculatory social media campaign against him, the jury could be biased in making a decision, therefore a thorough investigation into the evidence and court documents by the jury during the decision process is needed, calling upon the jury's sense of justice.

Bishimbayev admitted to enforcing grievous bodily harm resulting in the death of Saltanat, but not intentional murder. As he argued, because Saltanat’s death was a result of a ruptured hematoma, he couldn’t have known that she was in a deadly danger and, moreover, couldn’t have gone into her head to rupture the blood vessels himself.

He also pleaded with the jury, that if there was another, an ordinary person on trial, not a former minister and businessman, there would not have been as many calls for harsher sentencing and such media coverage, which in his words is intentional and fake, influencing the opinions of people: “I am the same person as all and deserve an impartial and objective trial.”

Aitbek Amangeldi, victim’s brother, denied any speculations about a media campaign against the accused: “There was no need for that. From day one, people started supporting us. The media paid attention to this, for which I am very grateful for: both the media and all the people, who have been supporting us all this time. Why do I need this? And every time I just went out and refuted all the ridiculous things that were written about our family and, in particular, about Saltanat.”

Bishimbayev also quoted a phrase commonly attributed to Joseph Goebbels, though its true originator is Adolf Hitler [Editor's note: this was fact checked back in 2022, when addressing the negative information spread about him in the media. At the end he once again admitted to hurting Saltanat, stating that even he judges himself for his crime.

“I don’t want to quote, but I’ll say it. There was such a notorious minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany. So, his expression was this: “The more terrible our lie is, the easier it will be for people to believe it.” This is how it turns out in my case: the more terrible the lie that is spread, the easier it is for people to believe it,” Bishimbayev said.

Kuandyk Bishimbayev says his last words
Kuandyk Bishimbayev's mother in courtroom Photo credit: Diana Bizhanova/Kazinform

Kuandyk Bishimbayev pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm resulting in death with the punishment of 8 to 12 years in prison. At the beginning of the trial, his defense insisted that the ex-minister should be tried for causing death by negligence punishable by a maximum of 3 years. However, for murder with extreme cruelty and torture, the former official could face 15 years in prison up to life imprisonment.

Kazinform remarks that previously Bishimbayev has gone to prison for a felony of bribery on an especially large scale, being in prison for a year. However, he was later personally acquitted by the former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. If not acquitted, a second large-scale felony offense would result in a life-sentencing, according to the law.

The second accused, Bakhytzhan Baizhanov, in his speech said that he did not know of the severity of the situation at the time, otherwise he would have not taken all the actions, which are now used to prove his involvement in the cover-up. He admitted to asking to delete the security camera footage, moving the victim’s phone around so that her brother wouldn’t be alarmed by her location and to other actions presented as proof of his guilt.

Bakytzhan Baizhanov delivers his last words
Bakytzhan Baizhanov delivers his last words Photo credit: Diana Bizhanva/Kazinform

However, Baizhanov shared, if he realized, he would have acted differently, not defending himself. He also highlighted the fact that he provided all the necessary information and evidence to the investigation authorities willingly. In the end, Baizhanov also asked for forgiveness from the victim’s family and friends, saying that if his punishment would ease the grief, he will go through with it.

After the court session, Bishimbayev’s sister shared a few thoughts about the process with the Kazinform correspondent: “Honestly, I don’t want to get involved with this s***. You know the expression ‘don’t touch the s***, you won’t stink’. I don’t want to say anything, I don’t want to touch it, I don’t want to stink with them. Let them stink on their own, please. I can say a lot of things, I don’t want to just stink with them. Honestly, my children are already suffering from this s***.”

Lawyer of the victim’s side, Igor Vranchev, described next steps of the trial, saying: “I think that on the 10th half a day will be spent on questions, because there will probably be disputes between us, the defense side, on the formulation of questions. In any case, the judge will correct them and the rest is up to the jury. Maybe they will make a decision on that day, maybe they will need time to further study the materials that were examined during the trial. I think it will take at least one day.”

The trial will continue on May 10 with the possibility of sentencing on the same day. Kazinform correspondent will continue to report from the courtroom.

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