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Kazakh leader's son-in-law arrested in abduction case

VIENNA -- Austrian authorities yesterday arrested the Kazakh president's powerful son-in-law, who is wanted in his homeland for alleged involvement in the suspected kidnapping of two senior managers of a bank he controls.

Rakhat Aliyev, who was Kazakhstan's ambassador to Austria before he was dismissed last weekend, was arrested in Vienna, said Gerald Hesztera, spokesman for the country's federal bureau of investigation.

Earlier this week, Kazakh authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Aliyev, who is married to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's daughter Dariga.

Aliyev is suspected of an attempt to unseat his father-in-law in 2001 and recently advocated the establishment of a monarchy in the former Soviet republic. He was fired from his position as deputy foreign minister after the abduction allegations in February and was named Kazakhstan's ambassador in Austria.

Aliyev was dismissed from that position last Saturday, hours after he publicly accused Nazarbayev of a "retreat to the totalitarian Soviet past" and said he would run for president in 2012.

He also rejected the abduction allegations, saying they were fabricated on Nazarbayev's orders.

In the next 48 hours, a Vienna magistrate will decide whether to extradite Aliyev or release him on bail, prosecution spokesman Gerhard Jarosch told the Austria Press Agency.

Kazakhstan filed an extradition request with Austria's Justice Ministry on Wednesday.

Shortly after being taken to court, Aliyev complained of chest pains and was to be examined by a doctor, Jarosch said.

Kazakhstan's extradition request also includes six others who are either embassy staff or have a close relationship with Aliyev, APA reported.

Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the arrest.

Nazarbayev, who has been in power for 17 years, is credited with bringing stability and relative prosperity to his oil-rich Central Asian nation, which has enjoyed double-digit economic growth in recent years.

His rule, however, has been marred by accusations of authoritarian policies and nepotism. Last week, Nazarbayev signed a constitutional amendment allowing him to seek reelection in 2012 and in any subsequent vote.

Aliyev, a former tax police chief, has substantial business interests.

His wife, who controls the country's most powerful media holding, has a seat in parliament and is a deputy chairman of her father's political party.