Valletta (dpa) - Rakhat Aliyev, a former member of the Kazakh regime, said Sunday from his exile in Malta that secret agents from the energy-rich Central Asian republic are on a mission to "kidnap or kill" him.
"My life is in danger. There's a spying network in Malta and this is dangerous for me and my family," Aliyev said in an interview with The Sunday Times of Malta.
"It could be dangerous for the Maltese and the national security of Malta."
Aliyev's statements came in the wake of Italy's deportation to Kazakhstan of the wife and daughter of Mukhtar Ablyazov, another foe of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Rome later accepted the deportation was illegal, a result of pressure from Astana.
A former deputy chief of the secret services, Aliyev provided the Maltese newspaper with documents and photos that he said showed he was being tracked and threatened, and that Kazakh spies had infiltrated Maltese institutions.
The 50-year-old says he is a victim of political persecution, arguing that his troubles with Nazarbayev, then his father-in-law, started in 2007 after he criticized constitutional amendments that allowed the long-time ruler to stay in power as "president for life."
The president, in office since 1990, stripped Aliyev of his position as ambassador to Austria and announced that his eldest daughter, Dariga, had divorced him.
Aliyev was later convicted in absentia for several crimes, including planning a coup and kidnapping and torturing two bankers, charges he denies.
He first took up refuge in Austria, but moved to Malta in 2010, after Viennese authorities started investigating him for money laundering and kidnapping.
"It's the price I'm paying for our freedom. I know I stand against a dictator and a regime," Aliyev said.
Kazakhstan has huge oil and gas resources and strong commercial links with several Western countries, despite its poor human rights record.
Sunday Times of Malta interview (http://dpaq.de/QfVIS)