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Azerbaijan: Police Arrest 174 In Post-Election Violence

Baku, 17 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Police in Azerbaijan say they have arrested 174 people after violent clashes with protesters over a disputed election that officials say was overwhelmingly won by Ilham Aliyev (pictured), son of outgoing President Heidar Aliyev. Interior Minister Ramil Usubov today also said some 50 police and bystanders were hurt in the violence after the election on 15 October. He said one protester died in the clashes. Earlier reports said two people had died.

Usubov said "organizers of these disturbances will have to answer before the law." He blamed the disorder on opposition leader Isa Qambar, who election officials say received 12 percent of the votes compared to nearly 80 percent for Aliyev.

Azerbajani authorities have rejected criticism from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United States, and European Union, who all question the legitimacy of the poll.

Azerbaijan's parliament, or Milli Majlis, is due to meet in emergency session later today to discuss the violence.

The U.S. joined European observers in criticizing the election for being marred by voting irregularities and violence.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said American observers in Azerbaijan had noted problems with voter lists, cases of coercion, and other irregularities.

The U.S. spokesman said Washington was also concerned by reports of violent clashes between police and opposition demonstrators that left at least one person dead. He urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

He said the United States concurs with the preliminary assessment of observers from the OSCE, that while the voting was generally orderly, the election fell short of international standards.

Azerbaijani authorities have denied charges of electoral fraud.