July 10, 2015 / 2:35 PM / 4 years ago

Vienna court acquits former Kazakh spy chief and guard of murder

VIENNA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan’s former spy chief and a presidential family guard were acquitted by an Austrian jury on Friday of double murder in a trial whose main suspect, the president’s former son-in-law, was found hanged in jail.

Former head of the Kazakh secret service KNB Alnur Mussayev (R) and Vadim Koshlyak, sit in the dock before their trial in Vienna April 14, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Kazakh ex-secret service chief Alnur Mussayev and presidential guard Vadim Koshlyak stood accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering two Kazakh bankers in 2007 in collusion with Aliyev.

Austria had twice refused to extradite Rakhat Aliyev, a former Kazakh ambassador to Austria who was a vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and was separated from Nazarbayev’s daughter, to whom he had been married.

Aliyev had been sentenced in absentia to 20 years in jail in Kazakhstan for murdering the bankers, Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov, for financial gain.

Viennese prosecutors had been investigating the case for eight years.

Aliyev turned himself in last year and was found hanged in the bathroom of his cell in February.

The two remaining defendants pleaded not guilty. The jury gave no reason for its decision, in keeping with Austrian judicial procedure.

Prosecutors showed the court slides of a sauna complex, banking offices and a country house in Kazakhstan where, they said, the bankers were beaten and one raped.

Their bodies were later found in barrels buried in a dump.

The Austrian lawyers representing Mussayev and Koshlyak said the three accused had been framed because of Aliyev’s bad relations with Nazarbayev.

They argued that Austrian authorities had used manipulated evidence from Kazakh authorities, which the prosecutors deny.

Mussayev was fully acquitted by the jury, while Koshlyak was sentenced to two years in jail, more than half of which was suspended, for kidnapping Timraliyev.

Koshlyak was acquitted of all murder charges, according to a court spokeswoman. Prosecutors will appeal against the decision, she added.

Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Andrew Roche

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