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Azerbaijan Report: June 6, 2003

6 June 2003
Violence Breaks out at Unsanctioned Opposition Protest
Opposition protesters marching on the parliament were met with violence on 3 June as police wielding truncheons attacked a number of protesters as well as journalists.Nine opposition parties, united under the Opposition Coordination Center attempted to hold an unsanctioned picket in front of the Milli Majlis (parliament), protesting against the country�s new election code. Police armed with shields and truncheons blocked their way; nevertheless, the protesters made numerous attempts to burst through police lines.

A number of the protesters received light wounds and an undetermined number were arrested after clashes when police tried to disperse the crowd. A number of people dressed in civilian clothes also help the police to restrain the protesters. These persons were particularly notable for their aggressive behavior toward media representatives.

Opposition Coordination Center parties complained of the police's cruel behavior toward the protest participants. According to an organizer from the Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP), police inflicted bodily harm on 24 of the party's activists. Two of them were hospitalized. Moreover, it said that police detained 30 ADP members and took them to a number of police departments around Baku. The "reformist faction" of the People's Front Party (AXCP) reported that about 50 of its members were injured and 10 were arrested. Party members Gulamhusein Alibeyli, Alimemmed Nuriev and Nizami Guliev, also parliament deputies, were among those beaten. The Musavat Party also reported that police detained 10 of is members.

Media representatives met with police violence during the demonstration as well. Journalists from the opposition "Hurriyyet" and "Tezadlar" newspapers received light wound at the clashes, while a journalist of the independent "Zerkalo" newspaper was insulted and the activities of ANS television employees were restricted.

Following the incident the Baku Police Department Headquarters issued a statement. The statement reads that "according to Article 9 of the law on freedom of assembly the protest could not be held within a 300 meter-radius of the parliament building." Therefore police offered the protest organizers an alternate site: the square in front of the State Film Fund. The Baku Office of the Public Prosecutor and the police department warned opposition leaders in advance about this. But as of noon on 3 June various groups composed of 150-200 people tried to gather in front of the parliament. The statement then notes that the protest was prevented and 18 people, who did not comply with police demands, were detained.

The Opposition Coordination Center wanted to hold the picket to protest the way in which the new election code had been adopted as well as the recent insults that had been leveled against some opposition MPs. The center also demands the president�s resignation.

The new election law was approved by the parliament on 27 May and signed into law by the president on 2 June.

(Babek Bekir and Natig Zeinalov)

Steven Mann: Iraqi Oil Will Not Impact Current Caspian Projects
"The change of the situation Iraq will not impact the United States' interest in the long-term and large-scale projects on the Caspian," said Steven Mann, senior U.S. adviser on Caspian basin energy issues at a 4 June press-conference, held with U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson. Mann said the real significance of Iraqi oil likes in the increase in competition for investment dollars.

"Opening Iraqi oil to investments means that the Caspian region itself will not have to compete for investment," Mann said. "Therefore Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan must create an investment environment that provides favorable conditions for investors," Mann said. Mann noted that he had a chance to meet with President Heydar Aliev, with whom he discussed regional oil and gas projects. Mann said that he conveyed to the president the U.S. administration's support for the East-West energy corridor.

Ross Wilson, for his part, pointed out that the United States policies for energy developments, democratization and civil society building are interrelated. Democratization and rule of law is of great important for creating a favorable investment environment. Asked when the oil agreements would improve the social welfare of the Azerbaijani people, Mann said that the implementation of oil agreements requires time. It will also take time to realize the profits from that oil once it starts flowing. He noted that the establishment of Oil Fund is a significant step toward increasing oil incomes. Nevertheless, Mann added that it�s not only oil revenues that are needed to improve the population�s social conditions.

"I would like tell you on the basis of my own observation that it is not oil reserves that make a country rich. It is possible by creating a civil society, where rule of law is above all," he said.

Wilson pointed out that noticeable progress has been observed in the population's social condition over the last years. Referring to the World Bank's estimates, the ambassador said that per capita income in the country is expected to triple by the end of this decade.

Commenting on the reports in the Turkish and local press regarding Washington's support for Musavat chairman Isa Gambar at the upcoming presidential elections, Wilson said that "the United States has no candidate for the fall presidential ballot."

Touching on the new election code, the ambassador noted international institutions' suggestions had been made and he believed that some were taken into account in this document. But the issue at stake is how the law will be implemented. According to Wilson the U.S. will closely observe the elections and continue its relations with all parties.

Mann and Wilson denied allegations that investors who finance energy projects are anxious about the upcoming presidential ballot, as well as the reports in the Russian press that the United States administration plans to use Azerbaijan and Georgia as a launch pad for incursion into Iran.

(Natig Zeinalov)

Europe's Human Rights Court to Hear Azerbaijani Cases
From the end of June the Council of Europe's Human Rights Court will begin to look at Azerbaijani citizens' complaints, said Hajimurad Sadeddinov, head of the Fund for Democratic Development and Protection of Human Rights. Although citizens of Azerbaijan, a full member of the Council of Europe, have long ago won the right to appeal to the European Court, their complaints have not be considered because of the absence of an Azerbaijani judge and lawyer in this institution.

Sadeddinov told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that in June Khanlar Hajiev will take up the duties of Azerbaijani judge at the European Court. The European Court's representatives in Baku stated that they have no exact information about this, but expressed assurance that Azerbaijani citizens' complaints would be considered in the near future.

Meanwhile, there is also no reliable information regarding the number of citizens who have appealed to the European Court. For example, according to the European Court only 140 of a total of 1,000 applicants have been accepted for processing. The Council of Europe's Representative Office in Baku told Olaylar news agency that 360 people have appealed to the European Court. Most of complaints are linked with violation of fair court law, and freedom of speech and assembly. But according to Sadeddinov's estimates, some 300 citizens have appealed to the European Court to date. Only 30 of them have been registered.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)

Ganimet Zahidov in the article "Aquarium" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" writes that "in essence the government built by Heydar Aliyev is a group that has adopted to his work style only. This group cannot work under any other YAP leader, including Ilham Aliev. Since this team has been formed on the basis of benefits and punishments, there is only one level to keep it working: Heydar Aliyev himself. And Aliyev governs not the people, but processes." Zahidov points out that if the president now files Ilham Aliev's candidacy and tries to govern from the outside, no good will come of it. This will be considered as Aliev's acknowledgement of a collapse of his regime. Zahidov suggests that the president is not able to conduct an election campaign. For example, his visit to Barda has been postponed for six months. This means that the YAP plans to resort to an unprecedented falsification at these presidential elections. This time Ilham Aliyev will again run the YAP election campaign. Then he will be forced to put his father's final falsification action into legal shape.

An author writing only as Zeinalov in the article "Bloc-making within the opposition has reached the final stage" in the independent newspaper "Ayna" points out that as the distance leading to the president elections shortens, ambitious political forces' activities are becoming more focussed. The country's serious parties, irrespective of what camps they are aligned in, are gradually greaing up for the election. "Whose struggle for the highest post will the Azerbaijani citizens witness in this election year?" the author asks. First of all let's look at the government's candidate--Heydar Aliev. The president's recent health problems have cast doubt on his participation in the "election marathon." Moreover, Ilham Aliev, the president's son, has refused to take over his father's candidacy, raising many questions. But YAP activists and some governmental officials have recently stated with certainty that Heydar Aliyev will contest the presidential elections. Anyhow the truth of their statements will be clear in the near weeks. But the list of those within the opposition who express their intention to take part in the campaign is already enough long. If three opposition leaders have been named as candidates earlier, then it is impossible to predict what the final number will be.

Parliament deputy Zahid Oruj, deputy chairman of the pro-government Ana Vatan (Motherland) Party (AVP) for political issues, said in an interview with the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" that unsanctioned protests have a tendency to be more effective. The confrontation between the government and the opposition is escalating, making the demands of the latter known to a wider audience. Touching on the possibility of merging AVP with the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), Oruj said no such a question is on the party's agenda. "Simply, we are going to nominate Heydar Aliyev for the presidential elections at the party's upcoming congress. But some of the party's activists suggested endorsing Ilham Aliev's candidacy. We are treating this with respect. We do not consider that this wish contradicts Heydar Aliev's policy. It is possible that the issue of Ilham Aliev's candidacy will also be considered at the congress." Nazim Mustafa in an article entitled "An incumbent government is the only power that is able to ensure stability and dynamic development in Azerbaijan" in the government newspaper "Khalg" notes that as a rule, the opposition proves itself from election to election. This presidential ballot is of great importance for many opposition parties. It is time for some parties that call themselves "mother opposition" to be deprived of this status. It is time for chief opposition parties, which constitute an obstacle to the country�s development, to forming a healthy society, and to strengthening the country's image on the international arena, to cede their places to more healthy and constructive parties. The author writes that opposition parties have no chances, either alone or together, to contend with the ruling party at any level. Therefore, opposition parties, which are beforehand assured of defeat in the elections, sometimes look for support abroad and sometimes try to frustrate the ballot by undermining stability within the country. Mustafa recalls that as long ago as last fall the opposition tried to prevent the adoption of the election code. Round-table discussions toward this direction sponsored by international organizations were repeatedly boycotted by opposition parties.

"Who will be the YAP candidate?" asks Ainur Jamalgizi in the article "Do not mention my name�" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat." Jamalgizi writes that Heydar Aliyev is predicted to be nominated by YAP, while Ilham Aliev's candidacy is expected to be announced by the "Youth Reformist Movement." But even if Ilham Aliyev participates in the elections, the "victory" will be Heydar Aliev's. Only he has the opportunity to falsify the results of the elections. The author says that the president will not transfer power even to his close relatives and he will struggle to the end, as much as his health allows. Jamalgizi notes that those who want to come to power must think not about who from the ruling party they will be compete with, but what ways falsification can be prevented.

An author writing only as HajiAliyev in the article "The opposition will have at least 10 candidates at the presidential elections" in the governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" writes that opposition candidates will struggle fiercely with each other during the election campaign. According to the author, contradictions between parties which have aligned will intensify further after the campaign launch. This proves that the parties united under the opposition camp will not be able to make a unified stance and will participate in elections with their separate candidates.

Hajibala Azimov, chairman of the United Azerbaijan National Cohesion Party, said in an interview with the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" that today there are forces within the opposition whose participation in the elections would only promote the incumbent government's victory. It is impossible to go to the elections resting on false promises. The opposition must determine and endorse a candidate the people want and believe in.

In an interview with the pro-governmental newspaper "525," Mais Gulaliev, chairman of the Regional Caucasus NGOs Confederation, spoke about the possible ecological problems connected with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline. He said that Azerbaijan's greatest problem in the future will be the ecological, social and political problems originating from the BTC. It is wrong to separate these problems from each other, since any ecological problem is a consequence of misgoverning. GulAliyev noted the potential damage of every economic project must be taken into account in advance. But today the ecological damage that the BTC could inflict is not considered. Oil companies, including BP, pursue only their own interests and neglect ecological problems.

An author writing only as Nijat in the article "Prices in markets are raised artificially" in the independent newspaper "Uch Nogta" writes that following meat, butter, sugar and other everyday products, the prices for agricultural produce have also risen. Although many people link this with the bad weather conditions in the country, the real reason, in fact, is the activities of monopolies within markets. In other words, agricultural produce is bought by a group of people at cheap wholesale prices as soon as they are brought to market. In the issue of price the master of goods are exposed to pressure. If the master does not agree with the price of these groups, his goods embargoed in the market. If these monopolist forces did not exist, the prices for agricultural produce in the market would be much cheaper.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)