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Azerbaijan Report: May 1, 2001

1 May 2001
Shooting Incidents in Baku
According to the newspapers "Yeni Musavat" and "Milletin sesi," a shooting incident between Samed Heidarov, a representative of the Counter-Intelligence Department and the brother of Kamaladdin Heidarov, who is head of State Custom Committee, and Viktor Kandaurov, the driver and body-guard of Interior Minister Ramil Usubov, occurred in the center of Baku on April 28. Viktor Kandaurov was injured. Citing ANS TV, "Yeni Musavat" wrote that the Baku Police Department chief went to the scene of the shooting and confirmed that one of these two persons had been shot.

At the same time, officials are trying to hush up the incident. In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service, a representative of the Interior Ministry's Press Service denied that any confrontation had taken place between Samed Heidarov and Viktor Kandaurov. According to the spokesman, this information was distributed by opposition newspapers.

On April 30 two men, Yashar Jafarov, a citizen of Russia and Gulaga Feyzullayev, a citizen of Azerbaijan, were shot dead by an unknown person in the center of Baku. Former police officer Makhmud Hadjiyev said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service correspondent that one of the main reasons for such incidents is the fact that Azerbaijan police is becoming involved in politics. Recalling Interior Minister Ramil Ususbov's statement during the collective session of Internal Affairs Ministry that the criminal situation in Azerbaijan is improving, Makhmud Hadjiyev said the recent shootings show the minister's assertion is not true.

(Maarif Akbarov)

Authorities Fail To Solve Social Problems of Karabakh War Invalids
The press-secretary of the Karabakh Invalids' Society, Rei Kerimoglu, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service on 1 May reported the number of Karabakh War Invalids dying because of hard social conditions is increasing. Akhliman Sariyev, is the third Karabakh war Invalid to have died during the last month because of lack of treatment. According to Kerimoglu, 56 Karabakh war invalids have died during last three years and 15 have committed suicide.

( Babek Bakir)

Ali Kerimov, the head of the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, who took part in the meeting devoted to NATO activity in Brussels last week told during the Milli Mejlis session on May 1 that Azerbaijan is unable to take part in 1,200 events organized by NATO within the framework of the "Partnership for Peace" program for lack of financial means. Azerbaijan can afford to take part in only 200 of those event.

According to Kerimov, Azerbaijan has hard currency reserves amounting to $1 billion. He said he wishes those funds could be spent on bringing the Azerbaijan army up to NATO standards.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Freedom House: Azerbaijan Among "Not Free" Countries
Freedom House has published its annual report on press freedom in the world. The report lists Azerbaijan among those countries where the press is considered to be not free.

The report states that the Azerbaijan Media are regulated by the Ministry of Press and Information and the Ministry of Communications. Although censorship was officially outlawed in 1998, the Central Administration for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press still exercises control over press coverage. The Law on Mass Media, signed in February 2000, prohibits coverage that "insults the honour and dignity of the state and the Azerbaijani people" or that "is contrary to the national interest." The worsening economy has had a similarly detrimental effect on the independent press. Much of the media relies on advertising revenue, which has been scarce this year. Harrassment contines to be a problem for the independent media as offices are closed, equipment confiscated, and journalists threatened and assaulted.

The report says that of the 27 countries of Eastern Europe and the NIS, the media in nine are free; in eleven, partly free; and in seven, not free. Azerbaijan is among these seven countries. Nine countries, according to the report, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan slightly declined. In Azerbaijan, according to the report, "notably, a new mass media law prohibits broadly-defined insults to honor and dignity and reporting that contradicts the national interest."

The Freedom House decision to include Azerbaijan in a list of "not free" countries along with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan is somehow interesting. For example there are more than 50-60 opposition and independent newspapers in Azerbaijan compared with the total absence of opposition or independent newspapers in Turkmenistan.

The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," noting the activation of Communists in the former Soviet republics, writes that holidays such as the First of May are being restored by former Communist leaders who describe themselves as democrats. The hard social conditions of people in the former Soviet republics, the delay in implementing political and economic reforms, inability to integrate into Western institutions are the main reasons contributing to the strengthening of the Communists' position. According to the paper, the Azerbaijan government is creating all necessary conditions for Communists to operate freely.

The independent newspaper "525," in an article entitled "The Spring of the Communists," reports that today all mass media are reporting on the Communists' activity, and does not rule out that foreign forces are contributing to the activation of the communists. The paper labels as surprising the fact that ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union we have begun to discuss whether the day on which the Soviet Eleventh Army marched into Baku should be marked as an occupation or a holiday. According to the paper, in the near future the Communists will begin an open and serious struggle for power.

The independent and opposition press continue to discuss infighting within the government. "Yeni Musavat" writes that Kamaladdin Heidarov, the head of the State Customs Committee, has fallen into disgrace. The State Customs Committee is the most corrupted structure in Azerbaijan, and the government is going to demonstrate the effectiveness of structural reforms by oppressing Kamalladdiin Heidarov. As for the anticipated transfer of power from President Heidar Aliyev to his son, the paper writes that Aliyev would not like people such as Kamaladdin Heidarov to be in his successor's command. Secondly, the oppression of Kamaladdin Heidarov is linked with the appointment of the new commander of the National State Frontier troops Committee.

The paper recalls the investigation into the State Customs Committee carried out by the National Security Committee and suggests that the motive for the struggle between these structures is control over customs posts at the borders. At the same time, the newspaper pointed out that Kamaladdin Heidarov had compromising information about the illegal economic deals of the ruling elite.

The independent newspaper "Alternative" writes that the recent structural reforms created tension within the government. The paper reports that former Baku Mayor Rafael Allakhverdiyev and former Ministry of Press and Information Siruz Tabrizli are going to create a new movement within the Yeni Azerbaijan Party.

The independent newspaper "Uch nogte" construes the shooting incident on April 28 in the center of Baku between Samed Heidarov, brother of the head of the State Custom Office and Victor Kandaurov, a driver and body-guard of Internal ministry Ramil Usubov, as evidence that in reality there is no stability in Azerbaijan. The state leadership is deprived of the only argument against the Popular Front government .