Kazakhstan: Officials keep looking for a way to prosecute Rakhat Aliyev
|Publication Date||14 August 2007|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Kazakhstan: Officials keep looking for a way to prosecute Rakhat Aliyev, 14 August 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46c59a5a26.html [accessed 15 March 2014]|
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Joanna Lillis 8/14/07
Although an Austrian court has ruled against extradition, Kazakhstani officials are continuing to look for a way to prosecute Rakhat Aliyev, Kazakhstan's former ambassador to the OSCE and the soon-to-be ex-son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
An Austrian court on August 8 formally denied Kazakhstan's request to return Aliyev so that he could stand trial on racketeering and abduction charges. The decision was apparently connected with Kazakhstan's spotty democratization record, as the court expressed concern that Aliyev would not receive a fair trial, if extradited. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Aliyev – who denies any wrongdoing, and who claims that he is being persecuted for holding political views that do not align with those held by Nazarbayev – has remained in Vienna since being sacked as Kazakhstan's OSCE envoy.
Although the ruling cannot be appealed, the government has not exhausted its options, Interior Ministry spokesman Bagdat Kozhakhmetov told an August 13 press briefing in Astana. "We are going to continue what we have started," Kozhakhmetov said. "We have the chance to appeal to higher instances, as well as to international courts."
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry deplored the Austrian court's action. "The Kazakh side is perplexed by the Austrian court's decision to decline the extradition of Mr. Aliyev and other citizens of Kazakhstan, despite the fact that all necessary materials were supplied by us concerning the opening of criminal cases in Kazakhstan in relation to these people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev told an August 13 press briefing in Astana in remarks quoted by Kazinform news agency.
The government is seeking the extradition of Aliyev – who is being divorced by President Nazarbayev's eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva – on suspicion of involvement in the January kidnapping of two senior officials at Kazakhstan's Nurbank, Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Timraliyev's wife expressed outrage over the news that Austria had declined to extradite Aliyev. "What kind of reaction can there be – only fury," Armangul Kapasheva told EurasiaNet. "They only listened to one side."
Officials say Kazakhstan's lawyers were not invited to the extradition hearing, and that evidence linking Aliyev to serious crimes was ignored.
Aliyev expressed relief at the court ruling. He plans to travel to London, but Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry cast doubt on whether he is free to travel since he is still wanted by Interpol. The extradition refusal sparked speculation that Aliyev may be tried in absentia in Kazakhstan, as was former prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin – given a 10-year prison sentence in 2001 on multiple charges.
The news of the extradition bid rejection came as a blow to the government at the peak of campaigning for parliamentary elections on August 18, with the ruling Nur Otan party headed by Nazarbayev is expected to win a landslide. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Nazarbayev critics attempted to seize on the Austrian court decision to score political points. The opposition National Social Democratic Party (NSDP) said in an August 13 statement that the Austrian move was a "humiliating decision" for Kazakhstan. It went on to assail the Nazarbayev administration for not acting immediately when news of Timraliyev's and Khasenov's disappearances emerged in February. The government, according to the statement, moved against Aliyev only after he had been sent to Austria.
"At a time when all conditions existed to save these people and arrest the crime suspect, all state bodies, including the Prosecutor-General's Office, and also the Nur Otan party and its satellite parties, maintained the 'silence of the lambs' and did not support our frequent statements and appeals," the NSDP statement said. "Only after four months, when Rakhat Aliyev was out of reach and the chances of finding the kidnapped men had become minimal did the state machine discern the 'political winds' and start to emerge from its cowardly trance."
There was widespread anger in Kazakhstan over news that it is now unlikely that a public trial will take place. Many had hoped such a judicial proceeding would shed light on the Nurbank case – and also on the death of TV host Anastasiya Novikova, whose body was identified earlier this month and whom media reports have linked to Aliyev. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Blame was directed not only at Austria, but also at the government, with commentators singling out flaws in the justice system. "The conclusion [that Aliyev could not expect a fair trial] is unpleasant, but basically quite true," the NSDP said. As evidence that the justice system is used for political ends, the party points to the ongoing fraud trial against one of its leaders, Bolat Abilov, who is ruled out of Kazakhstan's parliamentary race due to previous convictions that he has insisted are politically motivated. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
As the fraud trial entered its eighth month, he accused the authorities of dragging it out. "We think they don't want to hand down the sentence before the election," Abilov told EurasiaNet. Other commentators pointed to politics as key to the Aliyev accusations.
"Whatever is said or written today about Rakhat Aliyev, we have to understand: his downfall was the result of a political struggle in Nazarbayev's entourage," said an August 10 commentary published by the Respublika newspaper. "It is beyond doubt that he is guilty before the law not because he broke it, but because he was driven out by competitors from the head of state's close entourage."
With Aliyev accusing the authorities of appropriating his assets, there were further changes at the media empire he once controlled. The Karavan tabloid was revamped and published what it described as the first issue of a new newspaper on August 10. The "new" newspaper appeared under the same name and with a similar masthead as with the old version of Karavan.
New editor-in-chief Zhanay Omarov said in an interview carried in that edition that the previous newspaper had not been closed down: "No-one closed the previous newspaper, or its founding company, nor persecuted them in any way.... They continue to exist de jure.... Whether they will remain de facto on the media market depends, I think, only on their own decision and absolutely nothing else."
Websites formerly controlled by Aliyev also are experiencing drastic changes: the Gazeta.kz website has closed, and the Kazakhstan Today site is undergoing reconstruction. There have also been changes at Nurbank, where – according to unconfirmed reports – Aliyev formerly held shares. Dariga Nazarbayeva was voted onto Nurbank's board July 23 and is now the largest shareholder with 36.28 per cent of shares, according to a shareholders' meeting protocol carried on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE) website. Nurali Aliyev, acting chairman of Nurbank's board and the son of Dariga Nazarbayeva and Rakhat Aliyev, owned 6.14 per cent of Nurbank shares as of July 1, a separate KASE report said.
Rakhat Aliyev's father, Mukhtar Aliyev, who formerly held a 6.73-per-cent share in the bank, no longer figures on the list of shareholders.
As the search continues for her husband, Kapasheva plans to travel to Austria and hopes to meet with Aliyev, seeking information about Timraliyev's disappearance. She is skeptical over Aliyev's claims that the case against him was sparked by his political activities. "First the arrests started, then the political element emerged," she told EurasiaNet. "If he had long disagreed politically with Nazarbayev, why didn't he say so?"
Editor's Note: Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.
Posted August 14, 2007 © Eurasianet