Former parliamentary speaker and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Quliyev planned to return to Baku today to participate in the country's legislative elections next month. He has lived in exile in the United States since 1996. When Quliyev's charter plane stopped in the Ukrainian city of Simferopol en route to Baku, the Ukrainian authorities stopped him, saying they had an international warrant for his arrest.
Quliyev told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that he was detained after his charter flight from London touched down in Simferopol. It was unclear whether the stopover in the Crimea had been planned. "[Quliyev] is not detained, but his movement in Ukraine is somewhat restricted because he is under an Interpol warrant, requested by the Republic of Azerbaijan," local police chief Andriy Ivantsov told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. "He is wanted by Azerbaijan's law enforcement agencies on several charges, so he was asked to come here to the police station. We are clarifying the situation now; we're in telephone contact with Azerbaijan and Interpol to decide his future."
Elman Salayev, the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan's deputy chairman, told RFE/RL he has appealed to the U.S. Embassy and the Ukrainian Embassy in Baku to secure Quliyev's release.
Azerbaijani authorities had warned that Quliyev would be arrested on embezzlement charges if he tried to enter the country. Interior Minister Ramil Usubov earlier today warned journalists and diplomats to stay away from Baku's international airport ahead of Quliyev's expected return. Usubov said police have been put on alert in the capital and that around two-dozen people have been detained on suspicion of organizing unrest, a figure that matches what Democratic Party officials told RFE/RL about arrests in the past 24 hours.
The Turan news agency reported that Democratic Party political council member Gurban Mamedov and Quliyev's nephew, Etibar Quliyev, have been detained by police. RFE/RL correspondents in Baku have noted increased security in downtown Baku and around government buildings.
RFE/RL also reported that several cars bearing diplomatic licenses of foreign embassies have been seen trying to reach the Baku airport. Interior Minister Usubov earlier urged journalists and diplomats not to go to the airport today to be on hand for Quliyev's return, warning "there may be clashes."
See also: Azerbaijani Opposition Leader Says 'On My Way' Home
Azerbaijan: Opposition Leader Returning From Exile