Azerbaijan detains 50 opposition protesters

Last Updated: Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 00:06

Baku: Police in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan
today detained 50 opposition activists who tried for a second
day to stage an anti-government protest inspired by the
uprisings in the Arab world.

Some 200 members of the opposition Musavat party
gathered at Fountain Square in central Baku for the protest
but were quickly dispersed by police, an AFP reporter at the
scene said.

Protesters, Musavat leaders Arif Hajili and Tofik
Yakublu, chanted "Liberty! Resignation!" as uniformed and
plain-clothes police led them away into police buses. Some of
them were released soon afterwards.

"Police detained 50 citizens on March 12," the
interior ministry said in a statement. It said 30 were
released, but another 20 were still being held and would later
appear in court.

Isa Gambar, the head of Musavat, said to a news agency that a
revolution in Azerbaijan was imminent if the authorities
failed to initiate democratic reforms.

"Our message to the authorities is: `Carry out
fundamental reforms, if you do not want a revolution`," Gambar
said.

"Today`s demonstration is historic, it marks the start
of a democratic movement in Azerbaijan."

On Friday police arrested over 40 young activists
trying to organise nationwide protests against the regime led
by President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father Heydar in
2003, through social networking site Facebook.

The authorities arrested at least five activists last
week ahead of the protests in a bid to stifle opposition in
the secular Muslim majority state.

Amnesty International has urged Azerbaijan to "stop
this crackdown immediately and allow activists to organise
peaceful protests."

The European Union delegation and the United States
ambassador to Azerbaijan have also voiced their concern over
arrests.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan has been courted by foreign
governments for its oil and gas supplies, but critics have
accused the West of tempering criticism of rights abuses there
to safeguard their economic interests.

Masters of vast Caspian oil wealth, the Aliyev family
has ruled Azerbaijan since 1993 when Ilham Aliyev`s father
Heydar became president. Heydar Aliyev was succeeded by his
son when he died in 2003.

Opposition critics accuse the Aliyev dynasty of
rigging elections, crushing dissent, jailing opponents and
stifling the media in this country of eight million
people.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011 - 00:06

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