Police in Kazakhstan's southern Zhambyl region say they have closed the case without charges against two journalists who were part of a probe into what they called the "distribution of false information" over deadly munitions explosions last month that led to the resignation of Defense Minister Nurlan Ermekbaev.
Regional police spokesman Begman Kutmurzayev told RFE/RL on September 23 that the case against Islambek Dastan of Turaninfo.kz and Daniyar Alimkul was closed because police failed to find any criminal elements in their probe of the reporting on the explosions by the two reporters.
The two had been summoned by the police for questioning on September 16. Dastan was called in as a witness, while Alimkul's status was as a witness with the right to defend himself.
Dastan told RFE/RL after being questioned that he answered the investigators' questions regarding his live broadcast on Facebook covering the explosions and fire at the munitions warehouse on August 26 that killed at least 17 people. One person remains missing in the accident. The blasts also injured 98 people, about half of them employees of the Emergency Situations Ministry. Alimkul has refused to comment on the questioning, saying that he signed papers prohibiting him from disclosing the investigation's proceeding. His lawyer, Aliya Arzymbetova, said that there were no suspects in the case at this point.
The probe angered Minister of Information and Social Development Aida Balaeva, who told RFE/RL that her ministry would "provide assistance" to the journalists, who should not have been investigated for doing their jobs.
The explosions caused a public outcry and criticism of the government, as many in the Central Asian country recalled similar explosions at an munitions warehouse near the town of Arys in the nearby Turkistan region in 2019 that killed four people and injured dozens of others. Some 85 percent of Arys's buildings, mainly private houses, were damaged by the heavy smoke, shock waves, and flying debris from the explosions.