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Kazakhstan: 'Misuse-Of-Power' Allegation Causes Scandal

  • Bruce Pannier

Rakhat Aliyev is the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee. He is also the son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Aliev's role in the government has recently come into question and articles critical of him have appeared in independent newspapers. The mere existence of such articles and public comments is something unusual in Kazakhstan, where criticism of government officials -- let alone members of the first family -- is rare.

Prague, 24 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- While most of the world's attention is focused on events in Afghanistan, to the north, the man they are calling the "Kamikaze deputy" of Kazakhstan's parliament is raising quite a scandal.

Two weeks ago, Tolen Toqtasynov, a member of the Mazhlis -- or lower house of parliament -- made a public statement criticizing Rakhat Aliev, the deputy chairman of the National Security Committee -- the successor to the KGB -- and the son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Toqtasynov accused Aliyev of "misuse of power" for his alleged attempts to control the economy and the country's mass media.

The case is particularly unique in Kazakhstan simply because it has gone this far. Many opposition politicians have previously found themselves in court and sometimes in jail for openly criticizing Kazakh government officials.

Some Internet sites in Kazakhstan and elsewhere have reprinted Toqtasynov's comments and a few independent newspapers have printed their own articles critical of Aliev, who is now planning to sue.

The editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Vremya Po," Nurlan Abliyazov, told journalists that his paper is being sued by Aliyev for printing an interview with a member of parliament, Valerian Zemlianov, who is also critical of Aliev. Abliyazov said the Almaty district court issued an order suspending publication of "Vremya Po."

Abliyazov gave some idea of what was said to offend Aliev: "[Aliev] is working against our president by suffocating democracy in the country, causing protests among the ordinary people and fighting against businessmen. Being the closest relative of the president, he tries his best to control everything. Tomorrow, he may put the president himself under him. These are the words of Valerian Zemlianov."

Abliyazov's lawyers said Aliyev is also suing the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta" and two Internet sites for printing articles that insulted his personal dignity and honor.

Toqtasynov claims that on Aliev's orders, the country's security apparatus is focusing its efforts on surveillance of opposition political parties, an accusation supported by the Republican People's Party.

Toqtasynov also implied that Aliev's marriage to Nazarbaev's daughter Dariga, who is head of the country's major media outlets, permits Aliyev to wield great influence over information in the country. Toqtasynov says he believes Nazarbaev is unaware of what Aliyev is doing.

Immediate reaction to Toqtasynov's comments came from officials at the state television channel KTK, who called the allegations groundless and politically motivated. Toqtasynov pointed to the quick response of state-run media to prove his point about Aliev's influence over the media: "In recent days, those [state-owned] media outlets have poured such a large amount of dirt that even I am surprised at the rapid and active response. They probably think by such means they may shut my mouth."

Aliyev says these articles are part of a plot against him initiated by Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, the governor of Kazakhstan's northern Pavlodar region, who is under investigation by Aliev's National Security Committee. Zhaqiyanov is still the governor of Pavlodar, and it is unclear if any charges have been filed against him.

But besides the lawsuits brought against the newspapers and Internet sites, there is no word of any investigations being launched into Toqtasynov himself -- who claims he has the support of his constituents -- or against Zemlianov.

Nazarbaev has made no comment on these events.

(Merhat Sharipzhan of the Kazakh Service contributed to this report.)