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Azerbaijan Report: April 26, 2002

26 April 2002
Azerbaijan Democratic Party Demands Release Of Its Detained Members
The Azerbaijani Democratic Party (ADP) staged six protests in Baku on 24 April against the detention of two of its women members. Fuad Hasanov, the party's deputy secretary for organization, said the protests were held in front of the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice, the General Prosecutor's office, the Azerbaijani parliament, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court beginning at 3 p.m. He said the police used violence against the picketers in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and arrested three of them. He said such incidents did not take place at the other demonstrations and the picketers submitted resolutions demanding the release of the women.

Hasanov said that officials of the parties represented in the United Opposition Movement, parliament deputies and lawyers took part in the protest staged in front of the Court of Appeals. The protesters continued the demonstration in front of the Appeals Court on 25 April. Hasanov says the detained members of the ADP are being kept in bad conditions. They started a hunger strike on 25 April.

Opposition party heads, lawyers and heads of intellectual organizations met on 24 April at ADP headquarters. According to ADP Secretary-General Serdar Jelaloglu, they decided to refuse to recognize legal rulings by the judge who sentenced the ADP members and to arrange massive protests.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Some Entrepreneurs Denied Chance to Meet President
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev met on 25 April with a group of entrepreneurs, but some businesspeople who came to meet the president were not allowed to do so. Even though some came all the way from Azerbaijan's remote districts, they were not allowed to meet the president. The official badges of the people who were not admitted to the event were taken away, some of them said.

Elmira Bayramova from the village of Govlar in the north-western district of Tovuz says that the fact that she was not allowed to meet the president is a clear example of what she called ongoing injustice in the republic. Bayramova said she registered for the event with the presidential office ahead of time, was asked for the text of the remarks she would deliver to the meeting and provided it. She told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that she was excluded from the meeting due to a dispute she had with the Tovuz district head. She said he sold the territory of her farm without coordinating the sale with her. The land was sold to a person who does not live in Tovuz, she said.

Zumrud Jebrayilova, head of the "Aygun" farming enterprise in the central Gabala district, faced the same fate as Bayramova. She says it is difficult for hard-working people to live in Azerbaijan. As the head of the council of disabled women, she has helped low-income and vulnerable families. Jebrayilova claims that the district municipality head is hostile to her and her enterprise. A group of entrepreneurs from the Nakhchivan district said they were surprised that they were not told beforehand that they would not be allowed to attend the meeting.

Alhusein Asgarov, head of the Hajigabul district fishing enterprise, had hoped to make a personal appeal to the president to help the business, but was denied entrance. He says that destroyed his last hope for the enterprise because neither local authorities nor law enforcement bodies have answered his appeals so far.

These people were among over 100 entrepreneurs who were able to watch the meeting only on TV monitors. The official explanation was that the meeting hall was not large enough for them all. Hagverdi Ismailov from the town of Goychay says this explanation is not satisfactory and that it would have been better to hold the meeting not in a small hall, but in the Republican Palace. It would be enough if the president came out of his office and the doors of the presidential palace opened for the people, he says.

(Babek Bekir)

Media Loan Recommendation Causes Complaints
The announcement of the names of the 30 newspapers that have been recommended for government loans has led to complaints from media outlets that were not included on the list. The president has allotted 17.3 billion manats (approximately $3.5 million) to the governmental Fund for Assistance to Entrepreneurs, some $300,000 of which has been earmarked for the press. The Ministry for Economic Development decided to make loans to 30 organizations, but did not determine which ones itself, asking the Editors' Union do so. The Union, which consists of editors-in-chief of the main opposition and independent newspapers and heads of various journalistic trade unions, polled its members and announced the names of the 30 media outlets which gathered the most votes. Only newspapers and news agencies were chosen.

Aflatun Amashov, head of the RUH Committee for Protection of Journalists' Rights and a member of the Editors' Union, said that there is nothing wrong with not including TV stations on the list. He says that, as a popular medium, television stations can appeal for loans at any time. According to Amashov, the editors wanted to give credits to all newspapers, but the Ministry for Economic Development asked them to recommend only 30.

Amashov says the Ministry of Economic Development will decide which organizations on the list will get loans based on business plans they submit to the ministry. He says that each outlet can get a loan of not more than $100,000.

Azer Hesret, head of the Journalists' Trade Union and a member of the Editors' Union, said that, given the ministry's requirements, the poll was the only way to select loan recipients, but that many people are dissatisfied with it. Hesret added that it would have been better if a joint commission including the heads of journalistic organisations and representatives of the Ministry for Economic Development had chosen the media outlets that would get the loans.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

The 26 April issues of Azerbaijani newspapers focus on the Caspian summit in Ashgabat as well as the president's meeting with local entrepreneurs. The pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" carries the optimistic article "A new phase of cooperation among Caspian littoral states commences." According to the newspaper, the Ashgabat summit demonstrated that there are major opportunities for resolution of disputes.

The 26 April issue of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" writes that U.S. attention is focused on the status of the Caspian, and that if the division of the seabed does not coincide with U.S. interests, the White House will not allow the implementation of any decision regarding the Caspian.

Rustam Mammadov, an expert on the Caspian in the presidential office, says in an interview with the newspaper "Ekho" that failure to settle the status of the Caspian could cause greater problems in the future. Mammadov says that not only the Caspian littoral states but also the U.S. and the European Union are interested in the issue. Asked which country will compromise in the near future, Mammadov said that no state should be required to compromise; every state must get its share. For instance, he says, Azerbaijan has taken what belongs to it. He said Azerbaijan will prove that it is right in any dispute or international court.

The 26 April issue of the independent newspaper "Ekho" said that Russia is to launch a major military training exercise in the Caspian. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the training had no links with the Ashgabat summit.

An author writing only as Emin in the 26 April issue of the newspaper opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" points out that, in compliance with a new decree, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has declared his revenues to the Information Department of State Officials' Financial and Property Issues. In the commentary "When will the financial state of the Azerbaijani president will be disclosed?" the author stresses that such steps must be taken in Azerbaijan, not least because there are so many rumors about the alleged wealth and luxurious property of state officials. But the officials deny these rumors. Emin argues that declarations would have a significant result, including clarifying the ownership of enterprises and banks in Azerbaijan.

Farhad Mammadov in a commentary entitled "Whom does our ambassador in Iran serve?" carried by the 26 April issue of the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" says that Azerbaijan's ambassador to Iran Abbaseli Hasanov issues regular statements about the position and interests of the Persian regime. Mammadov claims the ambassador said that Azerbaijan has no ties with Israel, that the Israeli embassy in Baku opened when former President Elchibey was in power, that it is difficult to close it now and that Azerbaijani officials never visited the Israeli embassy. He points out that Azerbaijan pays Hasanov to work in Iran to defend the interests of Azerbaijan. But he has forgotten his mission and become a protector of the interests of the Iranian regime, Mammadov writes. He adds that Hasanov's latest statement is not the first time his activity has not been in compliance with the interests of the state. He says that it is not expedient for a diplomat to work in the same country for a long time and ambassadors must be rotated after a definite period of time. It is not unheard of for a diplomat who has worked in one country for a long time to be involved in cooperation with the intelligence service of that country, he warns.

The 26 April issue of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the head of the Presidential Office, Ramiz Mehdiev, has said that no amnesty will be issued on Republican Day, 28 May. Khalid Kazimli in a commentary "New round of an old war" writes that amnesty decrees have been signed in connection with most holidays so far and some people were released from prison. But this will not happen this time. Why? The reason is not known. Either this government does not consider 28 May a significant holiday or it thinks that there are no prisoners to be released, the author says. According to the author, President Aliyev and his officials are sending a clear message about Azerbaijan's first period of independence -- declared on 28 May, 1918 -- and Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh, who was president of that short-lived democratic republic. Kazimli argues the government thinks that Heydar Aliyev is Azerbaijan's great historical personality and that Azerbaijan's real independence began after 15 June 1993 when Aliyev was elected chairman of the Azerbaijani parliament. Kazimli says government officials argue that the foundation of the "June liberation" was laid in July 1969, when Aliyev was elected first secretary of the Azerbaijan Communist Party Central Committee. The author thinks that the government will not sign an amnesty decree on 28 May for this reason.

The 26 April issue of the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" carries major articles devoted to the activity of the opposition. The majority of them discuss alleged developments in the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, which is divided into two factions. According to the newspaper, a third APFP splinter group is forming.

The United Opposition Movement intends to stage a protest on Azadlig Square on 27 April. According to the independent newspaper "525," the United Opposition Movement has rejected an alternate location suggested by the Baku municipality. But the police have said that they will not allow the unsanctioned opposition meeting.

Azad Nebiyev in an article "Intellectual elite and national state building" carried by the 26 April issue of the pro-governmental newspaper "Azerbaijan" writes that intellectualism is a great force in strengthening the state, protecting liberty and independence, and improving the nation's socio-economic and cultural progress. Intellectualism is the leading force of society and promotes progress. An intellectual's ability to lead society depends on the dialogue between the intellectual and the people. According to the author, sometimes, one intellectual finds a common language with the masses and makes them follow him.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)