Trial postponed for suspects in the murder of S.Zorig

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Ts.Amgalanbaatar and B.Sodnomdarjaa

On a chilly night in October 1998, Minister of Infrastructure S.Zorig was brutally murdered in his home. Two assailants allegedly broke into his apartment and tied up his wife, murdering Zorig when he arrived home from work.

The thirty-six-year-old hero of the democratic revolution suffered 16 stab wounds, three to his heart.

Eighteen years after S.Zorig’s assassination, three people, Ts.Amgalanbaatar, B.Sodnomdarjaa, and T.Chimgee, were scheduled to be tried for his murder at the 461st Prison Camp on Thursday, but their trial is being postponed by a week upon request of the defendants’ attorneys to “conduct further research”.

The violent crime, considered to be the most shocking event in Mongolia’s recent history, sent shockwaves of fear throughout the nation for months, with thousands of mourners crowding Sukhbaatar Square for candlelight vigils days after his demise, and all television and media devoted to the rising political star.

According to Zorig’s wife D.Bulgan, there were two assailants, a man around 170 cm tall and a taller woman, both of whom looked to be around 40 years old.

Ikon.mn reported that Ts.Amgalanbaatar would have been 16 at the time of the murder, and B.Sodnomdarjaa – who is 180 cm tall according to his mother – would have been 23 when the murder occurred. T.Chimgee would have been in her teens or early twenties in 1998.

According to officials, the trial is being held in a closed courtroom due to the involvement of domestic intelligence organizations and state secrets. Reporters were allowed into the courtroom after a rigorous security check but were abruptly instructed by police officers to leave after only a few minutes.

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461st Prison Camp

Ts.Amgalanbaatar’s sister, M.Gansuren, confirmed that they are both adopted children who lived in Orkhon Province and that they had not been to Ulaanbaatar before the year 2000.

B.Sodnomdarjaa’s mother, L.Javzmaa, said they were Ts.Amganalanbaatar’s neighbors. L.Javmaa said that her family farms in Orkhon Province and claimed that her son never left her side.

According to B.Sodnomdarjaa’s family, he and T.Chimgee are being dragged into the case by Ts.Amgalanbaatar, who received a 25-year sentence for his involvement in a murder in Choir.

The trial’s defense attorneys and prosecutors have asked to bring witnesses to the courtroom. As the sole witness to the crime, D.Bulgan is expected to unravel the mystery of her husband’s murder. Many have asked on social media whether she will recognize her husband’s killers after 18 years. D.Bulgan was arrested in November 2015 and released last September in relation to the murder investigation, with no charges made against her and no official statement made about her detention.

Former legislator, democratic revolutionary, and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar E.Bat-Uul was taken into police custody as a suspect in the murder shortly after the June 2016 election. E.Bat-Uul claimed that his arrest was politically motivated. He was interrogated, but no charges were made against him.

It was reported that a hat owned by E.Bat-Uul was found at the scene of the crime. He explained that he and President Ts.Elbegdorj were notified by the Chief of Police of Zorig’s death on the night of the incident, and that they were allowed inside his home, where no barriers were put in place. E.Bat-Uul said that in shock from the terrible scene, he left his hat in Zorig’s apartment. Ts.Elbegdorj, E.Bat-Uul, and S.Zorig were the key leaders of the 1989 democratic revolution in Mongolia.

It was reported that Zorig was being considered by his party to be nominated for the position of prime minister on the day of his death. Two months after the murder, J.Narantsatsralt, the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, was named the new prime minister in December 1998.

Journalists were let inside the courtroom for three minutes before the trial.
Journalists were let inside the courtroom for three minutes before the trial.

Zorig’s sister and former legislator S.Oyun said at the time, that she believed her brother was murdered to prevent him from mounting an anti-corruption campaign as prime minister. S.Oyun was elected to Parliament after her brother’s death and later served as Mongolia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Minister of Environment and Green Development.

Coverage of the trial by local media has reflected the public’s skepticism concerning the resolution of the case. The case has been brought to the attention of the public many times since the murder occurred. Many believe it has been brought up with political motives or to serve as a distraction. After the rescheduling of the trial, a prominent Mongolian Twitter user asked, “Are we to believe that teenagers ordered and committed a politically charged killing?”

 

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