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Kazakhstan: Nazarbaev's Son-In-Law Sent To Austria Amid More Accusations

Kazakh President Nazarbaev (left) with his daughter Darigha (far right), the wife of Rakhat Aliev (file photo) (epa) February 21, 2007 -- Rakhat Aliev, the son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, has had an eventful month. He was accused of kidnapping and beating two men and filed a lawsuit against his accusers. He was then dismissed by his father-in-law from his government post in Kazakhstan and sent to Vienna to be the Kazakh ambassador to Austria.

Controversy seems to always follow Rakhat Aliev, but this month he made the news in Kazakhstan for a number of reasons.

History Of Problems

Aliev was accused of kidnapping and personally beating at least one bank official; he is suing over that claim and, in the meantime, he was relieved from his post as first deputy foreign minister and sent to Austria as Kazakhstan's ambassador.

"If Rakhat Aliev says it's not true, then he should bring my husband back and let my husband himself say it's not true."

MORE: The Clans Of Kazakhstan

It is not the first time Aliev was sent to Austria to try to defuse scandals surrounding him at home in Kazakhstan.

Aliev, 44, is married to Nazarbaev's eldest daughter, Darigha. A doctor by training, Aliev has held posts in Kazakhstan's police department, the national security committee, and the presidential security service. He has been the head of the country's Olympic Committee, first deputy foreign minister, Kazakhstan's special representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and now, for the second time, ambassador to Austria.

Opposition groups in Kazakhstan have targeted him on numerous occasions as a prime example of nepotism, and they have connected Aliev to various scandals and criminal cases.

The Unusual Incident

The most recent allegations about Aliev are that he invited Nurbank Chairman Abilmazhin Gilimov and Deputy Chairman Zholdas Timraliev for talks, then held the two for 24 hours to compel them to sell their interest in a building in Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty.

After disappearing for a day, Timraliev returned and told his wife Armangul Qapasheva (note: Kazakh women often do not take their husband's name after being married) what happened. He then disappeared again after receiving a summons to speak with the tax police. Qapasheva repeated to the press what she said her husband told her. Timraliev has not been seen or heard from since January 23.

"He said that he was handcuffed all night long to a weight machine and not allowed to sleep while Rakhat Aliev personally beat him," she said.

Acting on advice from her lawyer, Nazira Bazarbaeva, the Gilimov's wife, has not commented on the accusations against Aliev except to say her husband was not beaten. Both men resigned from Nurbank after the meeting with Aliev. Both now face charges of fraud, including the alleged illegal transfer of $6.5 million in January.

Gilimov has been in police custody since the alleged kidnapping. Timraliev's whereabout are unknown. The building in Almaty that Aliev wanted them to sell was, in fact, sold on January 22 -- four days after the alleged kidnapping -- for what some said is a very low price.

Accusations And Counteraccusations

Aliev is suing Qapasheva and Bazarbaeva for insulting his honor and dignity. Qapasheva remains defiant.

"I think I'm not guilty, I'm innocent," she said. "Whatever I said, it is true. If Rakhat Aliev says it's not true, then he should bring my husband back and let my husband himself say it's not true. Only after this can I say that I'm guilty."

But several media outlets reported Qapasheva's comments and now Aliev is suing them as well. The newspapers "Svoboda Slova," "Tasjargan," "Vremya," and are all facing legal suits for reporting Qapasheva's comments.

"Svoboda Slova" Chief Editor Gulzhan Ergalieva said her paper was told to print a retraction and an apology for printing Qapasheva's open letter to President Nazarbaev. She told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service she did not feel her newspaper has broken any laws.

"It is the right of any media outlet to cover events that take place," she said. "In this case here is the letter of Armangul Qapasheva addressed to the president. There is no violation of the law here."

Off To Vienna

The legal suits are pending but the plaintiff is no longer in the country. On February 9, as the accusations and counteraccusations grew, Aliev was sent to Vienna to be ambassador to Austria yet again.

Aliev was first named ambassador to Austria in 2002. Just months before that appointment a group of young and wealthy government officials formed an opposition group, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan. This group alleged that Aliev was plotting to oust his father-in-law.

As the battle between Kazakhstan's younger politicians heated up (Aliev and the leaders of the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan are roughly the same age), Nazarbaev finally intervened.

Aliev was sent to Austria and Democratic Choice leaders Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, a former governor of Pavlodar Province, and Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former energy minister, faced corruption and abuse of power charges. They were eventually convicted and jailed.

Aliev was officially transferred to Austria to help lobby for Kazakhstan to receive the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a top foreign-policy goal of Nazarbaev's.

But what seems important is that for the immediate future Aliev has been removed from Kazakhstan's political scene and yet another controversial situation.

(Merhat Sharipzhan of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service contributed to this report.)

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