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New allegation that prison officer was behind Aliyev death

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Rakhat Aliyev. Photo: OSCE/Mikhail Evstafiev
12:42 CET+01:00
New allegations about the death in an Austrian jail of Rakhat Aliyev, a prominent opponent and former son-in-law of Kazakhstan's president, have emerged.

His lawyers don't believe he killed himself and think he was murdered. Now a former prison psychologist has told Ö1 Radio that he believes a prison officer was responsible for Aliyev’s death. The justice ministry has said the allegation is absurd.

The wealthy ex-diplomat, who was facing murder charges, was found hanged in his Vienna prison cell in February 2015 just before he was due to testify in a separate extortion trial.

Former prison psychiatrist Stefan Zechner told the Ö1 Frühjournal programme that Aliyev had felt threatened in prison, but that he had not observed that he had any signs of mental illness or suicidal intentions. "At the time, I reported to the police that suicide should be excluded from a professional psychiatric point of view," Zechner said. He added that he had voiced his suspicions that a prison officer was involved.

A spokesman for the justice ministry, Christian Pilnacek, told Ö1 that he was stunned by Zechner’s allegations as in the fortnight before he died he had not even spoken to Aliyev. "He just saw him across the hallway and thought he looked happy, I don’t think you can call that a diagnosis."

He added that the investigation into Aliyev’s death had examined video surveillance from the prison hallway and cell door and had excluded the involvement of prison officers in his death.

At the time of Aliyev’s death experts said it was suicide, but his widow and lawyers insisted foul play was involved.

On Monday, a renowned German specialist, Bernd Brinkmann, sided with the family and said that in his opinion "suicide was not possible". Brinkmann said that bruising on the neck indicated that someone had sat on Aliyev's chest and suffocated him by covering his mouth and nose. Aliyev’s lawyers hope the case will be reopened on the basis of the new evidence.

The prosecutor's office has received a copy of Brinkmann's report and is now waiting for a second expert opinion.

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