20 More Years!

by Joshua Foust on 3/27/2008 · 8 comments

Hell hath no fury like a Nazarbayev scorned: Rakhat Aliyev, the bête noir of Kazakh politics for his probably association in a bank heist (but more importantly, disputing the holy rule of the holy family), has had his original sentence, which was handed down after a sham of a trial, extended by 20 years.

With that kind of treatment, one would be forgiven for thinking Aliyev was really a western businessman held on trumped-up charges, or maybe just the scorned ex-husband of the King’s favored daughter. No one is denying Aliyev is an unsavory figure; but so is everyone else in Kazakh politics. Everyone is dirty. That Aliyev has been singled out is surely due to factors beyond his mere criminality (which, in these circles, is common).

We’ve speculated it’s his failed marriage to Dariga, his connection with Nurbank’s potential sale to two Australian banks, and his questioning of the constitutional reforms that actually abrogated the vestiges of self-rule that had crept into Kazakhstan’s government over the few years its been its own country. What do you think?

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Narcogen March 28, 2008 at 1:24 am

Trumped up?

Those two cases are a bit more similar than most people realize.

Nyura March 28, 2008 at 9:11 am

My 2¢ — Too much power & money, combined with a swaggering ego & a few too many embarrassing mis-steps.

Oldschool Boy March 28, 2008 at 12:45 pm

No offence Josh but you started talking conventional wisdom, not facts. I mean when you say “everyone in Kazakh politics is dirty”. Same things can most people say about politics in USA (watch Michael Moore) or any other country in the World.
Speculating about Rakhat Aliyev without knowing him or what people in Kazakhstan know about him is like speculating about Michael Jackson, whether he is a pedophile or not only based on tabloid articles.
Josh do not turn the guy into a victim of the “regime” (if you like to label it that way). He is a bad guy. He is a raider and racketeer. When he disappeared many businessmen in Kazakhstan were relieved. I personally know people (some my friends, some relatives) whose business he took or tried to take. He was taking anything he liked if those who possessed it did not have enough strength to defend. He is a type of men you would not like to meet personally. And I quite believe that he could try to accomplish a coup. He is a power thirsty maniac. About a couple of years ago he published an article in the Caravan newspaper where he proposed and justified establishment of monarchy in Kazakhstan. How he suddenly turned into a democrat I do not understand.
I know for you it is simply irresistible to portray anybody who is prosecuted by “dictatorship” as a romantic revolutionist. But Aliyev is not this type of a guy.

Joshua Foust March 28, 2008 at 1:39 pm

OSB, I don’t recall saying anything you seem to be reading into it (when did I ever call him a democrat?). My remark about everyone being dirty is actually fairly accurate: it is a situation where the moment someone becomes politically inconvenient they can be brought up on corruption charges and whisked away. Also, what part of

No one is denying Aliyev is an unsavory figure

Was unambiguous? There is no doubt he’s a nasty man. My point was that most people at his level are. That you think him willing and capable of pulling off a coup is almost immaterial; there is almost no one else who could. That’s why he got canned only when he publicly speculated about challenging Nazarbayev — Uncle Nazzy saw a threat to his power.

So, umm, I don’t really know what you’re going on about.

Oldschool Boy March 28, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Ok, I admit I might have misunderstood you. You did not say he was democrat. However, I should warn you that the notion that “he got canned only when he publicly speculated about challenging Nazarbayev” comes directly from Aliyev. He started spreding this bull… only after he got nailed. I as many other people in Kazakhstan was watching all the developments in this story and I know that Aliyev’s misfortune began when he clashed with Almaty mayor Tasmagambetov (Tas). The whole story began when Aliyev kidnapped three bank managers one of whom was Tasmagambetov’s relative. Wife of one of the kidnapped bankers turned to police and was apparently supported by Tasmagambetov, who probably decided to use all the power he had to overcome the president’s son in law (of cause he had some financial and political interests at stake). It was basically a clash of two forces – police who were on Tas’s side and financial police who were created and nurtured by Aliyev. I do not know how Tas was able to neutralize KNB but it looked like KNB was not on either side. For Tas it was a deadly conflict, he could have lost everything. Amazingly Tas won. I think Aliyev was too self confident or drunk with power (actually I think he is stupid) and he underestimated his opponent. The story became too public and I think then Nazarbayev (NAN) had no choice but to publicly denounce his son in law. Keep in mind that the public opinion was strongly against Aliyev, and besides Tas there were other powerful players who were fed up with Aliyev’s mischief.
Nazarbayev himself would never do much harm to son in law, especially based on some so called open political challenge. Aliyev as a public figure is a joke. In fact Nazarbayev had already forgiven Aliyev once for a coup attempt. It was in 2001, after the current opposition leaders openly had told Nazarbayev about Aliyev’s deeds. Then instead of fully prosecuting Aliyev who had been a vice-chairman of KNB he had simply exiled him to Austria for 2 years.
This time NAN sent him to Austria again (which helped Aliyev escape prosecution) and then denounced him. Aliyev could have been spared again but as I said he was stupid and instead of being quiet he started some noisy public campaign pretending to be a political victim. Now he has no way to return home. Although I think that chances to get him into Kazakhstan for prosecution are very slim – I do not think NAN really wants him to be prosecuted; he is the father of NAN’s grandchildren after all. Otherwise NAN would not have let him to escape to Austria in the first place.
Interesting story, eh

Michael Hancock March 30, 2008 at 10:05 am

I remember that KAPABAH article. It was hilarious and scary at the same time.

Bakinets March 30, 2008 at 4:12 pm

I am going to have to side with Oldschool Boy here. Rahat Aliyev is in a class by himself as far as the Kazakh elite is concerned. His appalling thuggish behaviour was the main driver for the founding of Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan back in 2001. Nazarbayev gave him another chance, then another and yet another — but one day he was no longer going to be lenient, and this was the time. It has nothing to do with Aliyev challenging Nazarbayev’s power, which was in any case always a joke.

Marat March 31, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Your editorial is so funny! You should listen to Old School Boy. Aleyev is capable of everything that you have read and then some. His is sadistic. He is intelligent on the one hand but very stupid on the other. He will take a strong position on an issue and then flip to a strong position on the other side as fast as you can blink. He has no problem turning on those closest to him. I could go on and on. You have no idea.

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