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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Arrested on conspiracy

10-22-2005 BAKU SUN - By Aida Sultanova - 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 Aliev dismissed Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliev, who is no relation, from his post on Wednesday. No reason for the dismissal had been given. Ministry and National Security Ministry said that Aliev 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 Caspian Sea country. Guliyev had said he would return to Azerbaijan this past Monday after a decade in self-imposed exile, and Azerbaijani authorities had vowed to arrest him on already 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 on Thursday, the Interfax news agency reported. President Aliev also dismissed Health Minister Ali Insanov on Thursday, according to a presidential decree published by the Azertaj state news agency. A law enforcement official, who declined to be identified, said police had searched his residence, as well as that of Education Minister Misir Mardanov. Mardanov, Labor Minister Ali Nagiyev and government Chief of Staff Akif Muradverdiyev were also dismissed on Thursday, the Interfax news agency reported, citing an unnamed senior government official. Farhad Aliev, the former economic development minister, was also charged with embezzlement, abuse of office and misappropriation of funds, the joint statement said. Independent political analyst Rasim Musabekov predicted the dismissals and arrests would help consolidate support for the president. "Everybody criticized (President) Aliev for his weakness and the weakness of authorities that could be overturned, but now these forces will consolidate around the strong power," Musabekov said. He also suggested that a considerable number of members of the old team, which has been in power for years, were certain they would lose their posts after the forthcoming elections. "Understanding that could have encouraged them to establish contacts with the possible alternatives to the authorities and undertake attempts to become close to them," Musabekov said. Prosecutors opened the case against Aliev after questioning former Finance Minister Fikret Yusifov, who was detained on Monday as police rounded up opposition supporters ahead of Guliyev's scheduled arrival, the statement said. Yusifov allegedly told investigators that Guliyev had instructed him to contact Aliev and others to propose they help finance a coup, the statement said. It said that Aliev had met with Yusifov twice on the premises of the Azpetrol oil company, owned by Aliev's brother Rafik. Rafik Aliev was also detained Wednesday. Yusifov purportedly said that Aliev had agreed to provide $3 million toward the coup effort, the statement said. Yusifov allegedly met with Guliyev earlier this month in Berlin, told him a coup was necessary and that they could use mass demonstrations to prevent his arrest. He also allegedly gave him instructions that Yusifov passed on to Farhad Aliev. On Oct. 15, Aliev allegedly gave Yusifov 100,000 ($120,000) to finance a coup, the statement said. The money was found during a search, it said. News of Aliev's arrest came amid spiraling tensions around next month’s vote. Opposition parties have been holding rallies in the capital, Baku, nearly every weekend, accusing the government of plotting to rig the elections, and police have violently broken up recent attempts to defy a ban on downtown protests. Authorities are concerned that Azerbaijan could see a mass uprising similar to those that followed elections in other post-Soviet states over the past two years, including Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. On Monday, police detained hundreds of opposition activists, fearing they might try to disrupt plans to arrest Guliyev.

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