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Azerbaijan: U.S. Joins OSCE To Express Concern On Crackdown

Washington, 20 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. government has joined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in expressing concern about a wave of arrests following protests against last week's presidential elections in Azerbaijan. The U.S. State Department said today the arrests appear to be politically motivated. The department called on both the Azerbaijani government and the opposition to act peacefully and to observe the law.

"We are also worried about post-election violence in Azerbaijan and we've called on both the government and the opposition parties to stop it. Those who are engaged in criminal acts should be pursued as should police who used excessive force. There's no place in a democracy for such violence," U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said today.

Earlier today, Christian Strohal, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, condemned the detention of opposition members and several election officials who refused to certify the results at various polling stations.

The election placed Ilham Aliyev in the presidential office to replace his ailing father, and it was followed by violent clashes on 16 October between opposition supporters and police. At least one protester died and dozens were injured in the violence.

Strohal said more than 100 people were detained in a government sweep of opposition activists.