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Azerbaijan Report: May 15, 2001

15 May 2001
Democrat Party Staged Demo In Baku
On May 12 numerous police using force thwarted an attempt by the Democrat Party (ADP) to stage a protest demonstration in the center of Baku to demand the release of political prisoners. Some other opposition parties also joined the action. Clashes between police and participants lasted for an hour.

In contrast to previous meetings, during the 12 May demonstration police used force not only against protest participants but also against journalists. Journalists from the newspapers "Impuls", "525" and "Avropa" and the Turkish TV station "Saman Yolu" were among them. Some journalist's cameras were broken and their press cards were taken away.

Baku Police Department Deputy Chief Jashar Aliyev told journalists that 13 participants in the demonstration were arrested. But ADP member Hasrat Rustamov told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that 20 ADP members including Secretary General Sardar Jalaloglu were arrested. He also said that two participants received serious physical injuries and have been hospitalized.

According to the ADP press-service, five people arrested during the demonstration were detained for five days, and the rest were released. Sardar Jalaloglu and Avaz Temirkhan, one of the leaders of the Liberal Party, were dismissed after paying a fine. Jalaloglu told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that the party is going to continue its struggle despite the police violence.

(Babek Bakir, Maarif Akbarov)

Number of Prisoners With Tuberculosis Increasing
Human Rights Department head Saida Godjamanli told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that the number of prisoners suffering from tuberculosis has reached a dangerously high level.

The International Red Cross Committee says it has started to implement a joint project with the Justice Ministry to eradicate tuberculosis in Azerbaijani prisons, and has treated 530 prisoners within the framework of that program.

Among prisoners suffering from TB is former Ter-Ter Raion administration head Sardar Hamidov, whose health is deteriorating, according to his lawyer, Vugar Khasiyev. Khasiyev told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that the necessary conditions for his treatment in the prison do not exist. Justice Ministry representative Niyazi Mamedov denies this, however.

Sardar Hamidov is the brother of former jailed former Interior Minister Iskander Hamidov. He was arrested in 1997 and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on charges of using of arms against state bodies and the attempted murder of the Procurator-General. Sardar Hamidov is being held in prison no. 17.

(Natig Zeynalov)

On May 15 the Milli Mejlis ratified a new agreement on the export of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey. Asya Manafova, head of the Parliament Commission on Natural Resources, Energy and Ecology, reported that by the end of 2004, 2 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan's Shahdeniz field will be exported to Turkey. In 2005 Azerbaijan will export 3 billion and in 2006 - 5 billion cubic meters of gas. In 2018 Azerbaijan will be able to export 6.6 billion cubic meters of gas.

According to experts, the Shahdeniz field contains reserves amounting to 1 trillion cubic meters. The realization of this project requires investment totalling of $ 2.6 billion.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Civic Unity Party Discussed May 1992 Events
The Civic Unity Party held a round-table discussion on the theme "The 15 May coup d'etat" with the participation of opposition party representatives. Civic Unity Party secretary-general Sabir Hadjiyev stated that on May 15 1992, then President Ayaz Mutallibov was overthrown by force. He left Azerbaijan to prevent civil war within the country.

Former parliament deputy Jumshud Nuriyev said that on February 19 1992 the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, supported by the U.S., Turkish intelligence and the Head of the Caucasus Religious Board Sheikh Pashazadeh demanded that Ayaz Mutallibov to resign. He accused the Popular Front of creating the problem facing Azerbaijan today. According to Nuriyev, the Azerbaijan Popular Front contributed to the advent to power of Heidar Aliev.

Vahdat party chairman Tahir Kerimli said it is difficult to evaluate the events of 15 May. He characterized them as a struggle for power.

(Almaz Nasibova)

The independent newspaper "525" writes that conflicts between different religious sects are intensifying in Azerbaijan and thus threaten the national security of the country. Among them are Shiite fanatics supported by Iran secret services, and wahhabis who the paper claims are financed by some Arab countries and the British secret services. The paper's commentator accuses Iran of inflaming the conflict between sunnites and Shiites in Azerbaijan.

The infighting within the government remains in the center of attention of the Azerbaijani press. The independent newspaper "Uch nogte" notes that one of the groups within the government is led by presidential administration head Ramiz Mehdiyev. Members of that group do not consider President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham as a serious candidate to succeed to the presidency. The group headed by former Press and Information Minister Siruz Tabrizli and former Baku mayor Rafael Allakhverdiev is trying to create a team to support Ilham Aliev. A third group is led by former parliament speaker Rasul Guliyev. This group mainly consists of government officials whose families come from Nakhichevan. According to the paper, more such groups have started to take shape around Kamaladdin Heidarov, head of State Custom Committee, Vasif Talibov, chairman of Nakhchivan Supreme Soviet and parliament speaker Murtuz Aleskerov.

Commenting on the most recent verbal attacks on Ramiz Mehdiyev, the independent paper "Alternative" notes that he is being criticized by Rafael Allakhverdiev, Sirus Tabrizli, and some other former high ranking officials who were replaced recently and by the members of "Group 91" who were creators of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party. The paper adds that despite rumors about Mehdiyev's upcoming resignation, President Aliyev is not going to dismiss him.

"Zerkalo" recalls the events of 14-15 May1992, when ex-president Ayaz Mutalibov made an unsuccessful attempt to return to power after his resignation on March 6. The paper writes that Mutalibov was able to stop the process which started on March 5, 1992, when the opposition forced him to resign. But he did not use his power properly.

Noting the activation of Carey Cavanaugh, the U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE's Minsk Group, in trying to forge a the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" writes that most Azerbaijani politicians are suspicious about the U.S. efforts. They characterize the U.S. State Department's statement about the need for Armenia's recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity as a game on the part of Washington. According to the paper, the Armenians and the separatist regime of Upper Karabakh do not trust Washington's motives either.

(Samira Gaziyeva)