Ex-politician seen beating his wife to death in CCTV footage

World

The murder trial of a former senior politician in Kazakhstan who has been accused of beating his wife to death has attracted the attention of the nation, sparking calls for new legislation tackling domestic violence. 

Shocking footage showing businessman Kuandyk Bishimbayev, Kazakhstan’s former economy minister, beating his wife at a family restaurant has been streamed online from the court.

The case has touched a nerve among the public as tens of thousands of people have signed petitions calling for new laws to hold those guilty of abuse to account.

Why is the case so high profile?

The trial of Bishimbayev, 44, is the first in the country to ever be streamed online – making it readily accessible to the 19 million people in Kazakhstan.

Bishimbayev is on trial for killing his wife, Mrs Nukenova, and the case has touched a nerve in the Central Asian country. Pic: Kazakhstan Supreme Court Press Office/Telegram/AP
Image:
Bishimbayev admitted last month in court that he had beaten his wife. Pic: Kazakhstan Supreme Court Press Office/Telegram/AP

The former politician was already well known, having been jailed for bribery in 2018. He spent less than two years of his 10-year sentence in prison before he was pardoned.

Bishimbayev was charged with torturing and killing his wife after her death last November. For weeks, he maintained his innocence but admitted last month in court that he had beaten her and “unintentionally” caused her death.

Saltanat Nukenova, 31, was found dead in November in a restaurant owned by one of her husband’s relatives.

Disturbing CCTV footage shows the defendant, a father of four, dragging his wife by her hair, and then punching and kicking her.

Hours after it was recorded, she died of brain trauma.

Businessman Kuandyk Bishimbayev, the country's former economy minister, sits in a defendants’ cage in court in Kazakhstan. Pic: Kazakhstan Supreme Court Press Office/Telegram/AP
Image:
Bishimbayev was jailed for bribery in 2018. Pic: Kazakhstan Supreme Court Press Office/Telegram/AP

Bishimbayev’s lawyers initially disputed medical evidence indicating Ms Nukenova died from repeated blows to the head.

They also portrayed her as prone to jealousy and violence, although no video from the restaurant’s security cameras that was played in court has shown her attacking Bishimbayev.

According to a 2018 study backed by UN Women, about 400 women die as a result of domestic violence in Kazakhstan every year, although many go unreported.


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What reaction has the trial caused?

Tens of thousands of people in the country have signed a petition calling for harsher measures against perpetrators of domestic violence in the wake of Ms Nukenova’s tragic death.

The signatures resulted in senators approving a bill which toughens spousal abuse laws last month – dubbed “Saltanat’s Law”.

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Aitbek Amangeldy, Ms Nukenova’s brother and a key prosecution witness, told the Associated Press he had no doubt his sister’s tragic fate has shifted attitudes about domestic violence.

“It changes people’s minds when they see directly what it looks like when a person is tortured.”

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