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Azerbaijan Report: February 8, 2002

8 February 2002
Azerbaijan Democratic Party Staged Protest Actions
The Azerbaijan Democrat Party staged two protest actions on 8 February. The Baku municipal authorities did not give permission to hold the protest action in front of the Supreme Court, but police did not succeed in preventing it. ADP members demanded freedom for Gurban Mammadov and other political prisoners, and that Azerbaijan implement its commitments to the Council of Europe.

The Committee to Protect Gurban Mammadov's Rights staged a sanctioned protest action in front of the Ministry of Justice with the same demands. The police did not intervene. Committee head Namig Ahadzadeh said ADP deputy chairman Gurban Mammadov, who is in prison 13, has recently been placed in a punishment cell.

The picketers met with Niyazi Mammadov, Head of the Ministry of Justice Chief department for Implementation of Court Rulings, who promised to study their demands and respond to them in the near future.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Chairman Of Turkish Grand National Assembly Visited Azerbaijan
Omar Izgi, chairman of the Turkey's Grand National Assembly, who is visiting the Azerbaijan Republic, addressed the Azerbaijani parliament on 8 February and once more assured Azerbaijani parliamentarians that Turkey will not establish ties with Armenia until the latter liberates Azerbaijan's occupied lands. Turkey will not spare assistance to Azerbaijan in trying to resolve the Karabakh problem and Turkish parliamentarians will reiterate the opinions they have expressed so far about the problem in international organisations. Omar Izgi protested the international organisations' delay in resolving the problem, noting that each expectation must have limits and the structures engaged in mediating a solution to the problem must be able to see reality.

Referring to economic ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan, Izgi said that Turkish companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Azerbaijan. He noted that some 40,000 citizens of the country have been provided with jobs through the activity of Turkish companies. He highly evaluated the agreements for construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipelines.

At a press conference held afterwards, Izgi said that PKK and other terrorists have inflicted damage of $300 billion on Turkey. Although Turkey will obtain some $10 billion from the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the moral aspect is more significant.

(Zerkhanim Ahmedli)

Council Of Europe Protests Closed Re-Trial Of Political Prisoners
On 6 February, the Gobustan closed prison considered the Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's application for the re-trial of former interior minister Isgandar Hamidov and Rahim Gaziev. According Hamidov's lawyer Vidadi Mahmudov, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution regarding Azerbaijan. Provision 9 of the resolution demands that the hearings be held in the first instance and then the Court on Heavy Crimes consider them. According to Mahmudov, Azerbaijan's legislation was not taken into consideration while forming this position.

Mahmudov says that the PACE demand regarding the trials to be held openly was violated. He said even though Hamidov's lawyers were allowed to take part in the hearings, his relatives, journalists, other lawyers and officials of international organisations were not allowed to do so. Consequently, the Council of Europe has again protested against the trials' being held behind closed doors. Andreas Gross, the Council of Europe Human Rights Committee rapporteur on Azerbaijan, evaluated this fact as a violation of human rights. He considered it urgent that the trial should be held openly and officials of the Human Rights Committee and non-governmental organisations should be able to attend.

According to the newspaper "Hurriyyet," Gross concluded that the trial was not fair even though the early resolution adopted in the winter session demanded the Azerbaijani government immediately release persons considered political prisoners. Gross expressed regret at the non-implementation of the recommendations. He added that they invited Azerbaijan to follow the example of Georgia and African states.

Saida Gojamanli, Head of the Human Rights Protection Bureau, says that if the Azerbaijani government continues holding the trials of the three prisoners in closed conditions, then the Council of Europe will not keep silent about it. She said they will appeal in the near future to judges. If they respond to their appeal negatively and the Azerbaijani government does not give up its persistence, then they will address the Council of Europe.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Radar Station And Azerbaijani-Turkish Ties
The Turkish press is concerned about Azerbaijan's leasing the Gabala radar station to Russia. The Turkey-based TGRT channel opined that the leasing of the facility to Russia for 10 years is contradictory to Turkey's security interests. Turkish newspapers also printed similar commentaries. The Azerbaijani press claims that Turkey will restrain in its relationships with Turkey and will find new allies. But the Turkish officials have not expressed their attitude yet.

The Head of the Caucasian Studies Centre Khaleddin Ibrahimli says that the Azerbaijan-Russian agreement on the Gabala radar station cannot damage Azerbaijani-Turkish relationships. According to him, the ties between the two countries can be characterised as close and significant more than strategic partnership. But despite such friendly and fraternal ties, Turkey is concerned about the fact and this concern is understandable. Ibrahimli said leasing the Gabala radar station to Russia is not in compliance with Azerbaijan's interests and a facility jeopardising Azerbaijan's interests cannot be in Turkey's interests. But the Turkish side cannot openly express its concern in the light of the difficult situation in Azerbaijan, the pressure exerted on it, the Azerbaijani leadership's mistakes in foreign and domestic policy and the processes in the Caucasus region.

Azerbaijan's former presidential aide Eldar Namazov in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service said that the new agreement once more confirmed the facility is Azerbaijan's property. According to him, the matter will be re-considered in 10 years and it is not a long-term. He thinks that the Azerbaijani side negotiated with Turkish officials before signing the agreement and took into consideration Turkey's position. According to Namazov, Turkish-Azerbaijani ties must be on good levels regardless of who is in the government, because Turkey is a close neighbour to Azerbaijan and its sole ally in the Karabakh problem.

(Abdulla Huseinoglu)

Emigration From Azerbaijan Increases
The UNCHR has released information indicating that Azerbaijanis mainly emigrate to Germany, which offered shelter to some 1,229 Azerbaijani refugees last year. Azerbaijanis also head to the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, and Canada. Some 2,415 Azerbaijanis have been registered in European countries. But their number is great taking into consideration the unregistered emigrants. The interesting point is that not all of these emigrants leave the country for political goals, simply, they pass themselves off as political emigrants and gain privileges in the countries they leave for. It is a reality that the majority of emigrants leave the country because of the difficult social conditions in which they live. They are usually provided with accomodation in foreign countries and use the aid of different humanitarian organisations. Sometimes they even find jobs. Regretfully, emigration from Azerbaijan began after this republic gained its independence. However, one would think that the number of the immigrants to the country would rise. Paradoxically, the government-in-office over the past 10 years has unequivocally justified the process and termed as integration. The brain drain was regarded with extreme indifference. Some Azerbaijani officials even boasted about the fact that skilled specialists recognised in the community left the country and now represent Azerbaijan abroad. Consequently, the number of Azerbaijani emigrants increased from year to year to the point that over the past nine months, some 2953 Azerbaijanis emigrated.

Azerbaijani parliament deputy Mais Safarli thinks that as a result of this process the demographic situation in Azerbaijan has been distorted. In order to reverse the negative trend the causes of emigration must be addressed.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Azerbaijani Government Signed Agreement With UNDP
The Azerbaijani government and the UNDP signed an agreement on 7 February on preparation of a local information technology strategy and its early introduction. In the last decade of the 20th century, communication technology was one of the urgent factors seriously impacting development of the society. A number of developed and developing countries gained advantages through the introduction of information communication technologies. The national strategies directed at formation of informed societies are being developed in the U.S., Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan, India and China.

It was stressed at the document-signing ceremony that the joint project of the Azerbaijani government and UNDP will expedite the transition to an informed civil society. The project aims at preparing a national strategy of information communication technologies and enabling its implementation in selected spheres. The total cost of the project is $1.2 million over a period of two years. Maleyke Abbaszadeh, Head of the State Committee for Admittance of Students and Marco Barsotti, UNDP official in Azerbaijan signed the document. Abbaszadeh said that the project refers to the sphere of information and communication for the sake of development. She also noted that taking into consideration the international community's interest, it is very important to coordinate and direct the present activity to this end. The Azerbaijani government undertakes the whole responsibility for effective management and implementation of the project. UNDP official Barsotti positively evaluated the implementation of the project in Azerbaijan.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Ferhad Mammadov in an article entitled "Why doesn't Heydar Aliyev go to Washington?" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that it is still unclear why Heydar Aliyev does not use the opportunity of holding talks with high-ranking officials of the Bush Administration. According to the author, there are no doubts that Washington is interested in Azerbaijan's position on the Iranian issue. The author writes that most probably, Washington wants to specify whether Heydar Aliyev reached any secret agreement in Moscow. Mammadov concludes that Aliyev has no interest in providing administration members with an explanation about the details of the Moscow talks and Azerbaijan's attitude to Iran and for that reason does not visit Washington.

Mahir Nebili in an article "They damage Azerbaijan" carried by the newspaper "Khalg" writes that the opposition tries to discredit Azerbaijan in the international community and form the image of a country backing terrorism for this republic. According to the author, opposition newspapers have raised the issue of "Osama bin Laden and Azerbaijan," claiming that terrorists will come to Azerbaijan. According to the author, if such information is carried in future, then Azerbaijan may be included on the black list of countries that support terrorism.

Rasim Bayramov in a commentary "Eldar Ibrahimov's proposal is necessary for Ilham Aliev" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" notes that the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party members' first step to extend the Azerbaijani president's term of office from 5 to 7 years has not yielded any results yet. According to the author, such a proposal can be made in future for a number of reasons. The author claims that the difficult social-economic situation in the country, the opposition's activity, the pressure of international organisations and YAP's declining influence among the people prevents Ilham Aliyev to come to power. None of these problems has been settled over the ten years of Heydar Aliev's government and neither the people nor the majority of YAP members believethey can be solved in the near future. The author notes in the conclusion that Aliyev needs much time to gain foreign countries' support and to neutralise the opposition's activity.

The chairman of the Azerbaijan parliamentary commission on scientific and educational issues, Shahlar Asgarov, in an interview with the newspaper "Azerbaijan" refers to the current state of Azerbaijani education. The deputy notes that there are some drawbacks in the private educational system, but the existence of faults in some private educational institutions does not discredit the sector as a whole. Asgarov says that private education has many potential opportunities but they are not being used in the right way.

According to the newspaper "Ekho", YAP-members are waiting for the president to return home in order to propose for the second time extending the presidential term of office from five to seven years. YAP member Siyavush Novruzov noted that if Heydar Aliyev accepts this proposal, then they will put the issue to a vote in the parliament. According to the author, the reason for the YAP members' making such proposal is that they are afraid of the possible outcome of the 2003 presidential elections. The author refers to the presidential elections of 1998 noting that those elections were accompanied by Western pressure.

Khalid Kazimli in a commentary "The problem of the future" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the issue of Heydar Aliev's successor is always pressing. He adds that the fact that all persons engaged in politics want to come to power has been accepted as natural for many years and has not caused major discussions. The chairmen of these parties have long declared that if legal, free and democratic elections are held, they will come to power. The author notes that there is some clarity in the successor issue, with regard to who will come to power alone and who will come in coalition. Almost no political force claims that he could come to power alone.

Mahir Samadov in a commentary "The harshness of unification" carried by the newspaper "525" writes that even though the need for unification in the opposition camp is recognised as a political reality, achieving that unity has become more difficult. He said the opposition has its own principles and functions and it should be admitted that today there are different contradictions between the Azerbaijani community and the opposition camp. These contradictions are gradually becoming more acute. Because of this, people regard none of the presidential aspirants as expressing their interests. The author notes that models for opposition unity have been tested so far, but these models do not contribute to the organisation of people's active resistance against the government.

The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" writes that a number of problems as well as the delay in mutual payments hinder the conduct of reforms in the energy sector. Consequently, the commitments to the budget are not implemented. It is pointed out in the article that the Stock Companies Azerenergy and Azerigas do not pay for fuel and gas and the latter does not pay the full amount of taxes. The reason is that consumers do not pay for the power energy and gas they use.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)