Europe

Kazakh pair in Austria trial after Aliyev jail death

Defendants Vadim Koshlyak (L) and Alnur Mussayev surrounded by guards in Vienna court (14 April) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Defendants Vadim Koshlyak (L) and Alnur Mussayev were surrounded by guards in court

Two Kazakhs have gone on trial amid great security in Vienna, in one of Austria's most unusual murder cases.

The men, one a former intelligence chief, are accused of aiding the abduction and murder of two bankers in Kazakhstan in 2007.

The main suspect, Rakhat Aliyev, a former ambassador to Austria, was found hanged in a Vienna prison in February.

The case has kept lawyers, politicians and security services occupied for years.

More than 60 witnesses are set to testify, some via video link.

Waste ground

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A large number of judicial guards were in place for the start of the trial

The charges relate to the killing in 2007 of two managers of the Kazakh Nurbank, in which Rakhat Aliyev - a former son-in-law of Kazakhstan's authoritarian president, Nursultan Nazarbayev - was a major shareholder.

The bodies of the two bankers, Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov, were not found until May 2011, buried in lime-filled barrels on waste ground in Almaty.

Two men appeared in court on Tuesday: Alnur Mussayev, a former head of the Kazakh intelligence service, and Vadim Koshlyak, a former presidential bodyguard.

Vienna prosecutor Bettina Wallner told the court that Aliyev and the two accused had jointly planned the murders.

Mr Koshlyak was said to have helped Aliyev to hold the two managers against their will and to force them to hand over shares and property rights.

Both men deny the charges. Mr Mussayev's defence lawyer called them a "story of lies" invented in Kazakhstan.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rakhat Aliyev, seen in an undated photo, was a former son-in-law of President Nazarbayev

Challenge to Nazarbayev

The case has largely focused on the death in custody of Rakhat Aliyev, a once powerful businessman-politician and former ally of the Kazakh president.

The pair fell out in 2007, and Aliyev was sacked from his post as ambassador in Vienna and sentenced in absentia to 40 years in prison for organised crime and an attempted coup.

He said he was victimised because he had challenged the president's rule.

Austrian authorities refused two extradition requests by Kazakhstan and began their own investigations, issuing an arrest warrant last May.

Aliyev handed himself in and spent eight months in investigative custody until he was found hanged in his cell.

His lawyers and family have vigorously denied he could have killed himself.

The long-running case has raised questions in Austria about the role of the Kazakh secret service, the KNB.

The KNB unsuccessfully tried to abduct the main suspects and the Austrian parliament investigated claims that it had tried to influence MPs and manipulate public opinion.

Image copyright David Lublin
Image caption An advert for Kazakhstan's Nurbank on a building in Almaty

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