Azerbaijan's former economic development minister has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring 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.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the Prosecutor General's office, Interior 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, reports the AP.