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Eurovision human rights campaigner arrested in Azerbaijan

AFP | Last Updated: Sunday, August 3, 2014 - 15:23

Baku: A prominent human rights campaigner in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan has been arrested and charged with economic crimes amid a new crackdown on dissidents, his lawyer said on Sunday.

A court in the capital Baku on Saturday ordered that Rasul Jafarov be held for three months after prosecutors charged him with tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power, said his laywer. 

The laywer, Khalid Bagirov, added that there were no legal grounds to detain the activist.

"He believes that his arrest is politically motivated from start to finish," Bagirov told AFP.

The arrest comes after law enforcement officials conducted a search at Jafarov`s home last week and questioned him as a witness in connection with a probe into a number of local and internationals non-government organisations. 

His bank accounts have been blocked since early July.

The 29-year-old activist helped organise a number of rights campaigns including "Sing For Democracy", which used the Eurovision Song Contest Azerbaijan hosted in 2012 to draw international attention to the country`s poor human rights record.

Rights groups say the government of the energy-rich Caucasus nation has ratcheted up pressure on opponents after President Ilham Aliyev was re-elected for a third term last year.

Jafarov`s arrest comes after authorities last week charged prominent rights campaigner Leyla Yunus, 57, with treason in a case that sparked concern in the West.

Her husband, political analyst Arif Yunus, 59, was also charged with treason and fraud.

Leyla Yunus has long worked with Armenian activists advocating the reconciliation of the two countries, which have been locked in a decades-long conflict over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region.

At least 15 troops have been killed over the past few days in the latest flare-up of violence between Azeris and ethnic Armenians.

First Published: Sunday, August 3, 2014 - 15:23

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