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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nazarbayev's Relative Loses Ambassadorship

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has dismissed his son-in-law who publicly criticized him while serving as ambassador to Austria.

Rakhat Aliyev, who is married to Nazarbayev's eldest daughter, was ousted Saturday after he accused the president of forcing him out of politics for having presidential ambitions.

Nazarbayev's office said Aliyev was fired following an official probe into allegations of his involvement in the illegal use of weapons and abduction in Kazakhstan.

Aliyev was also relieved of his post as Kazakhstan's envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Vienna-based, trans-Atlantic security and democracy body that Kazakhstan is seeking to chair in 2009.

Aliyev on Saturday rejected the official charges against him, saying they were "fabricated" on Nazarbayev's orders. Aliyev, who declared his presidential bid for 2012, also accused his father-in-law of ordering the suspension of media outlets he owns, according to a statement posted on the Kazakhstan Today news agency's web site.

Aliyev was dismissed as a deputy foreign minister in February and sent as an envoy to Austria amid a scandal over kidnapping of two senior managers of Nurbank, a Kazakh bank he controls.

Last week, Nazarbayev, who has ruled Kazakhstan for 17 years, signed a constitutional amendment allowing him to seek to stay in office indefinitely -- a move Aliyev branded "usurpation."

Earlier in the week, Aliyev was charged with the abduction of the Nurbank managers who disappeared in February after a purported dispute. A court in the commercial capital, Almaty, ordered a three-month suspension of the weekly Karavan and the television channel KTK, parts of the media holding controlled by Aliyev and his wife.

The U.S. Embassy said it was "disappointed" by the suspension.

"We call on the government of Kazakhstan to honor its commitment to democratic reform and freedom of speech," the embassy said in a statement. "We consider the right to communicate freely ideas and opinions as fundamental to democracy."

Aliyev dismissed the abduction charges against him as "absurd beyond limits." He said the suspension of his media outlets was a "comeback to the totalitarian past" aimed at silencing Nazarbayev's critics.

In 2001, liberal government officials presented Nazarbayev with documents they said pointed to plans by Aliyev to unseat him. Nazarbayev fired the officials, and they now make up the core of the opposition to the president.

Bolat Abilov, co-chairman of the opposition Nagyz Ak Zhol party, said Aliyev's criticism of Nazarbayev was driven by personal enmity, not ideological differences.

"Aliyev is flesh and blood of the political system of lawlessness created in Kazakhstan over the last 15 years," Abilov said.

Aliyev, 44, a former tax police chief, has substantial business interests. His wife Dariga controls the country's most powerful media holding, has a seat in the parliament and is a deputy chairwoman of her father's political party.