The Explanation Remains the Same: “No One Is to Blame”
November 9, 2015
Novaya Gazeta Saint Petersburg
Forensic experts have identified the cause of death of five-month-old Umarali Nazarov, who died at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital in the early hours of October 14
The two initial hypotheses advanced by physicians—upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—have been rejected. Now a third hypothesis emerged: the infant was laid low by Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. Allegedly, it could have developed while the baby was still in his mother’s womb. The parents and their attorneys have nothing to say to this for the time being. They have been officially recognized as injured parties in the case of the baby’s death, but at the same time they are the only ones who have not been apprised of the outcome of the forensic examination.
Two news agencies, TASS and Fontanka.Ru, announced the cause of Umarali Nazarov’s death on the evening of November 6. How and why journalists were informed before his mother, father, and their defense attorneys is a question for police investigators. The reporters quoted finding reaches by experts from the Petersburg Bureau of Forensic Medicine (BSME), but did not identify where they had received the information. Sources at the BSME told Novaya Gazeta they had not leaked any documents to the media.
“No one besides certain journalists has seen the conclusions of the forensic experts,” Olga Tseitlina, an attorney for the injured parties, told Novaya Gazeta in an interview. “We have not formally reviewed them, but we have announced that this is another violation of the rights of the injured parties. At the same time, on both November 5 and November 6, Zarina Yunusova (Umarali’s mother), Rustam Nazarov (his father), and their defense attorneys were at the investigative department for a long time, but investigators said not a word about the fact the findings of the forensic examination were ready. Until we have the official report of the experts, we cannot even petition the court to conduct an independent investigation. We have not been apprised not only of the findings but also of the official decision to order a forensic examination, meaning that we were deprived of the opportunity to ask additional questions and propose our own forensic experts.”
On the morning of October 13, 2015, the Federal Migration Service raided a rented flat at Lermontov Prospect, 5. They detained Zarina Yunusova, a 21-year-old citizen of Tajikistan and her young son, who were both taken to Police Precinct No. 1. There, Yunusova was separated from the infant, transported to court, and released only in the evening. The child was handed over to ambulance brigade medics and sent to Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital, where he died in the early hours of October 14.
At first, doctors said the preliminary cause of death was URTI. Later, members of the Human Rights Council (HRC), who conducted their own inquiry into the infant’s death in Petersburg from October 26 to October 31, said the cause of death was SIDS. According to the findings of forensic experts, as reported on November 6, the boy died from a CMV infection.
The news agencies published the following quotation from the report: “The cause of Umarali Nazarov’s death was a disease, a generalized (CMV) infection. The infection was complicated by the onset of cardiopulmonary disease. No traces of ethyl alcohol, narcotics or powerful medicaments were found in the child’s internal organs.”
As sources at the Petersburg BSME explained to Novaya Gazeta, a generalized (CMV) infection attacks nearly all the vital organs. According to the tests carried out, the virus did not incubate in Umarali overnight. It had already managed to attack his respiratory, cardiac, and gastrointestinal systems. The baby was diagnosed postmortem with pneumonia, dystrophy of the liver, dystrophy of the pancreas, stomach dysfunction, alterations of the adrenal gland, chronic inflammation of the small intestine (enteritis), cerebral edema, and spinal edema. The pathologists stressed that the child could have contracted the CMV infection even in his mother’s womb.
Umarali’s parents do not believe the findings as reported. They assure us their son was never ill and had no health problems. Nazarov’s medical chart shows that he had received all the necessary vaccinations for a five-month-old child. There is also written confirmation that until the moment of his death the baby looked healthy: the entries in his medical chart, in the report filed by the ambulance medics, and in the logbook at Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital.
Doctors from Tsimbalin Children’s Hospital have now been making mutually exclusive claims in the media, for example, that CMV infection is not amenable to visual diagnosis, that it can be diagnosed only after a comprehensive examination, and that outwardly CMV infection can manifest as URTI. So was it possible to notice the symptoms of the disease or not? Why, then, did none of the doctors notice anything for ten hours, that is, until the baby died?
“I want to remind everyone,” says Ilya Shablinsky, a member of the HRC commission that investigated Umarali Nazarov’s death, “that we have the intermediate results of several examinations of the children, by the paramedics from the ambulance brigade when the boy was hospitalized and twice by doctors at the hospital, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Everywhere they write that the baby is healthy, his temperature is normal, and he has a good appetite. The parents have every reason not to trust [doctors and police] and be afraid. What happened to their son between 2 p.m. and midnight, after which time he died? Regardless of what gets written now in the autopsy report, this has no impact on the accountability of police officers. The main conclusion that the HRC commission reached was that police officers exceeded their authority by removing the child from his mother and should be brought to justice. Umarali died not in his mother’s arms, but twelve hours after he was separated from her. This is a crime, and it is mentioned in the HRC’s report, which will be sent to President Vladimir Putin in the coming days.”
“There still has been no procedural decision on the actions of the police officers who removed the child from the mother, although all the deadlines for this have come and gone long ago,” continues Olga Tseitlina. “Aside from their own standing orders, the police officers at the very least violated the Family Code and the European Convention, which prohibit separating parents and children in such cases. We have never stated that the police killed the child, but we do claim that it removed him illegally and that this certainly caused harm. If the child had been with his mother, we do not know whether he would have died or not. And even if he was infected with a deadly virus, the question remains as to how long he would have lived. The state failed to protect the infant’s life, and now it is not investigating [his death]. The investigation is not looking for the perpetrators but attempting to establish the parents’ guilt. First, they attempted to prove that the child was poorly looked after, that he lived in poor conditions, and had caught cold. When that hypothesis did not pan out, they said the child died of a virus. All the efforts of the investigators we have seen so far have been directed towards finding an explanation that suits everyone involved in the tragedy. The reported findings of the cause of death completely jibe with the original position adopted by the police, the FMS, and the doctors: no one is to blame. I do not know whether the true causes of Umarali Nazarov’s death will ever be established, but I am ready to go to the European Court of Human Rights to prove that the investigation has been improper.”
Police investigators have failed to inform the parents not only of the findings of the forensic medical examination but also of the outcome of the autopsy done at the city morgue in October. Because of this and many other actions taken by investigators, the Tajikistan Honorary Consulate in Petersburg sent a note of protest to the city prosecutor’s office and the Main Investigative Department of the Petersburg Office of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. The Tajikistan Consulate voiced its dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency in the criminal investigation of five-month-old Umarali Nazarov’s death.
Rustam Nazarov, Umarali’s father:
We do not believe the child had this disease. There was nothing that would indicate [he had] any disease all his life. Umarali was never ill. We understand why this is happening. The authorities cannot take responsibility for the child’s death, but they torment us. They shift the blame on us: we have a bad apartment; we have bad blood. But I do not think those are their problems. They have one problem: to find out how and why our child died. And we want only one thing: to find out how and why our son died. We do not believe that anyone will be punished for this. We just want to know.
Parents of deceased Tajik boy forcibly taken to hospital
November 10, 2015
Parents of the five-month-old Tajik boy who died in St. Petersburg [in October] were forcibly taken to the Botkin Memorial Hospital for Infectious Diseases.
Tajik diaspora lawyer Uktam Ahmedov has informed Fontanka.Ru that today the police forcibly took the parents of the deceased Tajik infant Umarali Nazarov, Rustam Nazarov and Zarina Yunusova, from [their flat] on Lermontov Prospect to the Botkin Hospital for tests. Ahmedov said that police wanted to check them for the presence of the her
Ahmedov said the virus is present in ninety percent of the population, but police want to use this alleged piece of evidence to blame the parents for infecting the boy.
According to Akhmedov, no charges have been filed under Article No. 156 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (dereliction of duty in the upbringing of a minor).