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Azerbaijan Report: April 16, 2002


16 April 2002
NEWS BRIEFS
Karabakh Liberation Organization Stages Protest
The radical Karabakh Liberation Organization (KLO) staged three pickets to protest the presence of an Armenian delegation at an ecological conference in Baku. The two-day forum, on the rational use and ecological state of South Caucasian water resources, was held in Baku on 15-16 April at the initiative of the OSCE. An Armenian delegation with more than a dozen members took part in the forum.

The KLO held a series of protests against the participation of Armenian officials in the forum. On 12 April, they staged a picket in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The picketers continued the protest in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where the forum was held, on 14 and 15 April. Not only KLO members but also representatives of other social-political organizations took part in the action.

But the police did not allow the picketers to continue the protest and dispersed them. Chingiz Mammadov, the deputy head of the Yasamal District Police Department, led the dispersal of the demonstrators. The police forced KLO head Akif Naghi and other picketers into cars and took them into custody.

Most of the picketers were released quickly but Naghi was detained from 1 pm till 4 pm, when he was sent to Yasamal court. The judge warned Naghi that he must follow police orders and released him.

(Shahnaz Baylargizi)

Azerbaijani Lawyers Inspect Gobustan High-Security Prison
On 12 April, a group of Azerbaijani lawyers visited the Gobustan high-security prison under an agreement with the Ministry of Justice. A member of the group, Murad Sadeddinov, said that their visit was not only to check the living conditions of the prisoners, but also to search for innocent persons in the prison. They met prisoners, acquainted themselves with the conditions they were kept in, and enquired about their problems. Sadeddinov, chairman of the nongovernmental Fund for Development of Democracy and Protection of Human Rights, said the lawyers first visited the high-security prison on 5 March. On that occasion, they met with a number of inmates whom the Council of Europe considers to be political prisoners, including Isgandar Hamidov, Rahim Gaziev, Alikram Humbatov, and Natig Afandiev. The Council of Europe has demanded that Azerbaijan reconsider their cases.

On the latest visit, the lawyers decided to meet with inmates regardless of whether or not they are considered political prisoners. Sadeddinov himself served a sentence in prison and he compared the conditions in prison now and then. According to him, there have been some positive changes. Sadeddinov says that when the delegation visited the prison, they saw some prisoners reading newspapers or listening to the radio. Sadeddinov said the lawyers have reached an agreement with the Ministry of Justice for visiting other high-security and standard prisons.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

PRESS REVIEW
The government newspaper "Khalg" writes about the 12 April by-elections to the Azerbaijani parliament, claiming that as with previous elections, the opposition has seized on the vote as a topic for discussion.

An article entitled "Moscow's finger" carried by the newspaper "Zerkalo" describes the trial of 23 persons detained in connection with assaults on police in Zagatala last summer, claiming that Moscow's influence was felt in the incidents.

The newspaper "Azerbaijan" writes that the Russian ambassador to Azerbaijan, Nikolai Ryabov, said Russia is changing its attitude to the Karabakh problem.

Unlike official newspapers, opposition and independent media outlets carry articles about the picket staged by the Karabakh Liberation Organization. The demonstration was held to protest the arrival of an Armenian delegation in Baku to participate in an ecological seminar organized by the OSCE.

The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" carries a commentary devoted to the protest staged by the Karabakh Liberation Organization and its dispersal. The author of the commentary, Khalid Kazimli, says police officers instructed by political officials beat Azerbaijan's "patriot sons and intellectuals," forcing them into cars in a violent way. The author argues that the picket is not connected to government or opposition, that it is not a matter of policy, but that of nation and honor.

According to the newspaper "Ekho," a member of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Faraj Guliev, recently released from prison by order of the president, has recently told media representatives that he thinks Azerbaijan's future would best be served by unification of all political forces.

According to the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," the United Nations has declared that ethnic Azerbaijanis' rights have been violated in Iran.

Nureddin Mammadli, a member of the opposition Azerbaijan Democrat Party, says in an interview with the government newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" that each party in the United Opposition Movement has its own interests. According to him, there are currently factions in the opposition. Mammadli says that the recent fragmenting in the Azerbaijani opposition has brought out the personalities of different leaders. According to Mammadli, weak parties have admitted their weakness in discussions within the United Opposition Movement. Some politicians, he says, frequently bring issues into the agenda for their own purposes.

Galib Huseinli, in a commentary entitled "Provocation against the speaker" carried by the newspaper "Tezadlar," tries to clarify remarks that parliamentary speaker Murtuz Alasgarov made about a relative of his who was recently released from prison. Nizami Gojaev, the former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Investigation Department, was arrested when Eldar Hasanov was prosecutor-general. According to the author, immediately after Gojaev was pardoned, Alasgarov blackened Hasanov's name. (Hasanov is currently Azerbaijan's ambassador to Romania.) According to the author, the incident confirms that nothing is possible in the country without the head of state's consent. The author asks why the president allowed Gojaev's arrest and disgrace. And why has the president pardoned Gojaev only now, after the former official spent a year in prison? But the head of state is indifferent to such questions and remains silent. The author assumes that the president could arrange a major meeting in the Presidential Palace, dismiss some, and put an end to the career of others.

The newspaper "Hurriyyet" carries the article "What is happening in Ganja Gas Production Department?" devoted to alleged bribery in the governmental Ganja Gas Production Department. According to the author of the article, Ikram Rafigoglu, Ganja does not yet have a sufficient supply of gas even though it is one of Azerbaijan's industrial cities. According to the author, some high-ranking officials satisfy their own demands before supplying the city with gas. Rafigoglu claims that one of the irregularities in the city is that low-quality pipes made of cheap material are used instead of the more expensive pipelines laid during the Soviet time, enabling corrupt officials to pocket the difference. Another problem is that consumers do not pay their gas bills.

According to Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran, Abbasali Hasanov, who gave an interview to the newspaper "525," Iranian President Mohammad Khatami could visit Azerbaijan later this year. The newspaper learned from the Iranian Embassy in Azerbaijan that Khatami's visit to Azerbaijan can take place only after Heidar Aliev's visit to Iran. No date has been set for that visit.

Dunya Sakit in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes about the delivery of low-quality food products to Azerbaijan. According to him, official bodies say that such dangerous products are brought to the country by smuggling. But it is clear, he writes, that the food is not brought to the republic only through smuggling. He alleges that customs officials exaggerate the level of smuggling to distract attention from customs bodies. The bodies, which should control the quality of imported food, are under the direct control of customs officers. Because border controls are not sufficient, poor-quality imported products are discovered only after being brought into the country.

Samir Neymanoglu writing in the newspaper "Azadlyg" notes that different predictions regarding the transfer of power in Azerbaijan have been put forth over the past two years. Such speculation increased after President Aliev's surgery in February. According to the author, one theory is that the chairman of the State Securities Committee, Heidar Babaev, will be appointed prime minister in the near future. Babaev is also said to be the candidate with the best chance to succeed Aliev.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)

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