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Kazak General Suffers Heart Attack

January 11, 2000

ALMATY, Kazakstan (AP) _ The trial of a general accused of illegally selling 40 MiG fighter jets to North Korea came to an abrupt halt Tuesday when he had a heart attack in the courtroom.

Gen. Bakhytzhan Yertayev, chief of staff of Kazakstan’s armed forces, was taken to a hospital. His lawyer, Semyon Ginzburg, said the prosecution had been behaving ``aggressively″ just beforehand.

The case has become a major scandal in Kazakstan and has fueled Western fears that Soviet-era weaponry is making its way to so-called rogue states like North Korea.

Yertayev testified Monday that the $8 million deal was sanctioned by the Kazak Defense Ministry and the national security agency. Prosecutors and President Nursultan Nazarbayev say Yertayev and a co-defendant acted without authorization.

Former Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev, who was fired earlier for violating military sales regulations, testified Tuesday that the government had issued an order regarding the MiG sale, but when pressed for details he said he couldn’t remember them.

Yertayev then suffered a heart attack, and the court adjourned until Wednesday.

The jet sale scandal broke in March when a Russian cargo plane stopped over in Azerbaijan and airport officials discovered the hold was full of disassembled, Soviet-made MiG-21 fighter aircrafts. The crew said the cargo was bound for North Korea. The planes were sent back to Kazakstan.

Both the South Korean and U.S. governments have protested to Kazakstan over the deal.

Kazakstan inherited a large number of combat jets and other military equipment after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

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