Mass murder accused ‘tries to slit wrist’

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iol pic wld Kazakh border REUTERS File photo: A border guard wearing a mask closes a barrier at the Korgas crossing point, the largest on the 1 500km Kazakh-Chinese border on May 13, 2003.

Taldykorgan, Kazakhstan -

The Kazakh border guard accused of killing 14 fellow servicemen in one of the country's worst post-Soviet crimes on Wednesday tried to slit his wrist in court.

Vladislav Chelakh tore off a piece of the defendant's bench where he was seated and tried to harm himself at the courtroom in Taldykorgan, south-east Kazakhstan, an AFP correspondent said.

Chelakh, the sole survivor of the killings in May at a Kazakh border post with China that left 14 guards and a huntsman dead, had initially confessed to the murders. He subsequently retracted however, saying his confession had been made under psychological pressure.

“He tore off a bit of the bench on which he was sitting in the cage. He wanted to open the vein on his left arm,” said court security official Anvar Sapyzhanov.

Chelakh was then taken out of the court, yelling that he no longer wanted to take part in the trial, which opened on Monday.

A doctor present in court said that Chelakh's condition was satisfactory and he had suffered little more than a scratch.

In October, Chelakh tried to hang himself in a detention centre.

Wednesday's incident is just the latest twist in a trial that the defence insists is part of a cover-up to mask official failings to protect the Argkankergen border control post in the Tian Shan mountain range.

The defence now maintains that the border post came under attack.

On Tuesday, Chelakh's lawyer Serif Sassenov said that in reality the death toll was 18 and not 15 and that the authorities had not disclosed the higher figure to hide their failure to identify the three other corpses.

“They have not established who the corpses of the three other people were and are hiding this information,” he said.

The prosecutor-general's office has said that “internal conflicts and an inexplicable condition in which his mental state was clouded” drove Chelakh to commit the murders.

He faces charges of murder, damage of military property, theft of classified documents and desertion. - Sapa-AFP


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