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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Azeri Minister Tied to Coup Plot

APFarhad Aliyev
BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azerbaijan's former economic development minister has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring with an exiled opposition leader to carry out a coup, prosecutors, police and security ministries said Thursday.

President Ilham Aliyev dismissed Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliyev, who is no relation, from his post Wednesday. No reason for the dismissal was given.

In a statement Thursday, the Prosecutor General's Office, Interior Ministry and National Security Ministry said Aliyev was arrested Wednesday. It said he had been charged with conspiring with exiled opposition leader Rasul Guliyev to incite unrest and forcibly seize power in the country.

Guliyev had said he would return to Azerbaijan last Monday after a decade in self-imposed exile, and Azeri authorities had vowed to arrest him on existing embezzlement charges.

But Guliyev was detained in Ukraine on Monday during a refueling stop. Ukrainian officials said they had taken him into custody on a warrant from Interpol. Ukraine freed Guliyev from custody Thursday, and he said he would try again to go to Azerbaijan.

President Aliyev also dismissed Health Minister Ali Insanov and presidential chief of staff Akif Muradverdiyev on Thursday, according to presidential decrees published by the Azertaj state news agency. A law enforcement official, who declined to be identified, said police had searched Insanov's residence, as well as that of Education Minister Misir Mardanov.

Mardanov and Labor Minister Ali Nagiyev were also dismissed Thursday, Interfax reported.

Farhad Aliyev was also charged with embezzlement, abuse of office and misappropriation of funds.

Prosecutors opened the case against Aliyev after questioning former Finance Minister Fikret Yusifov, who was detained Monday as police rounded up opposition supporters ahead of Guliyev's scheduled arrival, the statement said.

Yusifov told investigators that Guliyev had instructed him to contact Aliyev and others to propose they help finance a coup, the statement said. It said Aliyev had met with Yusifov twice on the premises of the Azpetrol oil company, owned by Aliyev's brother Rafik. Rafik Aliyev was also detained Wednesday. Yusifov said Aliyev had agreed to provide $3 million toward the coup effort, the statement said.

News of Aliyev's arrest came amid spiraling tensions around next month's parliamentary elections. Authorities are concerned about an uprising similar to those that followed elections in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.