Kazakhstan strips ex-president's family of legal immunity

ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan's parliament on Friday repealed a law that gave former president Nursultan Nazarbayev's immediate family immunity from prosecution, and took away his status as a leader of the nation.

Nazarbayev, 82, ran the oil-rich Central Asian nation between 1989-2019, and created a personality cult during his three decades at the helm. He initially retained sweeping powers when he resigned and nominated close ally Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as a successor.

But the two politicians appeared to fall out early last year amid violent protests across the former Soviet republic which Tokayev said were part of an attempted coup; 238 people were killed as protesters, who seized and torched government buildings in several cities, clashed with security forces.

Tokayev then took over Nazarbayev's position as the head of the powerful security council and, after violence ended, oversaw the sacking of a number of Nazarbayev's relatives and affiliates from senior positions in the public sector.

Some of them, such as Nazarbayev's nephew Kairat Satybaldy, have been detained and charged with embezzling funds from the state or state-controlled companies.

The ex-president's closest relatives, however, have until now enjoyed legal immunity thanks to a law which also gave him the title of Yelbasy, or national leader, and provided him with an allowance and security detail at the expense of the state.

Citing "political transformation" launched by Tokayev and backed by last year's constitutional reform, lawmakers on Friday voted to repeal the law, a move which will allow the state, for example, to freeze the assets of Nazarbayev family members if they are suspected of a crime.

Nazarbayev himself, however, will retain immunity to prosecution which is provided by the constitution.

The ex-president's three daughters have owned a broad range of businesses and one of them, Dinara Kulibayeva, has consistently been ranked by the Forbes magazine as one of the richest persons in Kazakhstan, together with her husband Timur Kulibayev.

(Reporting by Tamara Vaal; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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