Austrian judge rules Rakhat Aliyev was not murdered in jail

Ex-Kazakhstan official Rakhat Aliyev who lived in exile in Malta between 2010 and 2014 was not murdered in Austrian jail, judge rules

Rakhat Aliyev was a former Kazakh ambassador to the OSCE in Austria, before losing diplomatic immunity.
Rakhat Aliyev was a former Kazakh ambassador to the OSCE in Austria, before losing diplomatic immunity.

The Austrian justice department has rejected suggestions of murder in the death in jail of Rakhat Aliyev, the former son-in-law to the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose fall from grace pushed him into exile in Malta.

Aliyev, 52, a former ambassador to Austria, intelligence officer, deputy foreign minister and banker, was found hanging in his cell in Vienna’s Josefstadt prison in February, prompting suggestions that he had been murdered after having himself said that the Kazakh secret service wanted him dead.

Just before his death, Aliyev had been due to testify in the trial of two prisoners who he alleged had threatened to kill him and make it look like a suicide unless he paid them. He had also been awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping and murdering two Kazakh bankers.

The prison authorities immediately pronounced his death as suicide but lawyers acting on behalf of his second wife, Elnara Shorazova, challenged this.

But an Austrian judge has dismissed the challenges and concluded Aliyev hanged himself. “The objection on the grounds of infringement of law by Elnara Shorazova is rejected,” judge Maria Schörghubel said.

She acknowledged that the case had been unusual and that there was an investigation into the possibility of foul play “because of the nearness of his trial, his particular exposure, threats made against him in the past while he was in custody, and the potential involvement of foreign powers”. But in the end she supported a police conclusion that it had been suicide.

Lawyers acting for Shorazova had submitted a detailed list of questions to the justice department, including an independent pathology report that concluded that “the involvement of a third party cannot be excluded”, that “at least two people are needed to stage such a hanging”, and a seemingly unexplained bruise in the middle of his forehead.

The multi-millionaire exile lived in Malta between 2010 and 2014, where he claimed he was being hunted down by the Kazakh secret service he once headed. He left Austria after Vienna prosecutors opened investigations on a double murder he is accused of being linked to. In 2008, a Kazakh court sentenced him to 20 years' imprisonment, in absentia, for his role in the murder of two bankers. Austria however refused to extradite him to Kazakhstan. He was stripped of his diplomatic immunity and forcefully divorced from Nursultan Nazarbayev's daughter.

In August 2013, a government notice appearing in the Cypriot daily Simerini, brought to public notice that Aliyev - who lived in Malta under the surname of Shoraz - was applying for a Cypriot passport. It was the first confirmed information that Aliyev was trying to secure EU citizenship.

Earlier that year, his Austrian aliens' passport repealed, following an inquiry by an Austrian ombudsman that found maladministration in the issuance of his passport by the ministry of the interior.