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Azerbaijan Report: June 26, 2001

26 June 2001
Situation of Azerbaijanis in Georgia Deteriorated
On 25 June about 300 inhabitants of the Bolnisi region of Georgia, which is mostly populated by Azerbaijanis, staged a demonstration in front of the central hospital in Bolnisi to protest recent moves by police. Alibala Aleskerov, head of the Geyrat Popular Movement, which represents the interests of Azerbaijanis living in Georgia, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that during the night of 23 June three men were arrested and cruelly beaten by Georgian police who accused them of theft. Two of the men were Azerbaijanis and the third was Greek. Mamedov said they are still being treated at the Bolnisi Central Hospital. He also reported that on June 24 the Bolnisi inhabitants blocked the road to Tbilisi in order to bring the police violence to the attention of the authorities.

The demonstration participants said that oppression of Azerbaijanis by the Georgian authorities is increasing. They added that Georgian police accuse Azerbaijanis of committing crimes in which they were not involved. The demonstrators do not rule out that some forces are interested in provoking ethnic clashes between Georgians and Azerbaijanis.

Alibala Aleskerov said that after the local authorities held a meeting late on 25 June at which Azerbaijani deputies to the Georgian parliament were present the situation in Bolnisi was stabilized and local authorities undertook to open criminal proceedings against the police officers who beat up the three men on 23 June. Azerbaijani officials have not commented on this incident. Observers suggest that the recent incident in Bolnisi could lead to the emigration to Azerbaijan of Azerbaijanis living in Georgia. That would not only create the economic difficulties but also compound political tension within Azerbaijan.

About 500,000 Azerbaijanis live in Georgia, but some emigrated during the early 1990s when Zviad Gamsakhurdia was Georgian president.

(Babek Bakir)

26 June Is Azerbaijan Army Day
Speaking at a ceremony on 25 June devoted to the 83rd anniversary of the Azerbaijan Army, President Heidar Aliyev said that Azerbaijan army is able to defend the country's independence and liberate occupied territories and restore its territorial integrity.

(Maarif Akbarov)

Trial Of Karabakh War Invalids Continues
Elshad Agamamedov, a Karabakh War veteran who was arrested during the Karabakh War Invalids' hunger strike earlier this year, attempted to commit suicide during the court session on 23 June but was saved by the efforts of the first-aid helpers. Agamamedov had protested the public prosecutor's refusal to permit the Karabakh War Invalids to speak about the reasons for their hunger strike. The security forces of the Republic Court on Grave Crimes did not allow journalists into the courtroom.

The head of the press-service of the Karabakh War Invalids Society, Rey Kerimoglu, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service accused the judge and public prosecutor of creating tension during the trial. He said that the Karabakh invalids do not believe that trial will end with a just sentence and that they understand that the court is fulfilling orders handed down by high ranking officials.

Igbal Agazadeh, who is a member of the Protection Committee of the Karabakh War Invalids and a parliament deputy, said that although 23 Milli Mejlis members have appealed to the court to release on bail the arrested Karabakh members they have not been released yet. He promised to raise this issue again and added that that the hard conditions in the prison where Karabakh War Invalids are being held will negatively affect their health.

The trial of six members of the Karabakh Invalids Society who took part in a hunger strike to demand an increase in their allowances began on 13 June.

(Babek Bakir, Maarif Akbarov)

The paper "Alternativ," which has close ties to the president's office, in its third report on money laundering and secret bank accounts in Switzerland owned by Azerbaijani officials, made an unusual statement. The paper urged Western European countries to return "dirty money" illegally smuggled out of former Soviet republics by local officials, or face the mass impoverishment of the population and eventually a revolution in those countries. The paper writes: "If European countries fail to return money illegally earned and smuggled out of these countries, mass poverty will follow which will lead to revolution. After the revolution the investigation of secret bank accounts will start." The paper made several strong accusations against the Azerbaijani authorities. "If close relatives of the present leaders control the 'big business networks' in the country, this means we have a sort of economic monarchy here. It is a great risk to invest in such countries."

"Russia is going to use the 'Mutallibov card,'" predicts the independent newspaper "Zerkalo." The paper writes that ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov met with former high-ranking officers from Russian State Security Committee a few days ago and decided to organize an Internet-forum.

The paper noted that Mutallibov's activity began after the Bush-Putin summit in Ljubljana. "H. Aliev's successor would be defined, if G.Bush and V.Putin could narrow their differences over the Karabakh issue. But today Ilham Aliev's candidacy is frozen," the paper comments, adding that at the same time Mutallibov's Civic Unity Party has already begun to create its "shadow cabinet." In the near future we will see Mutalllibov's coalition grow stronger. Backed by Kremlin, Mutallibov's supporters have launched a new campaign to attract parliament deputies and officials to their movement. As a result, according to "Zerkalo," five Azerbaijani parliament deputies agreed to raise in the parliament the alleged violation of Mutallibov's rights.

"After the promising dialogue in Key West, the negotiation process is frozen again � the Geneva talks are delayed for an indefinite time, [and] the OCSE Minsk Group does not hurry with new peace proposals," writes the independent newspaper "Ekho." "The Minsk Group co-chairmen will hardly be able to achieve something at a time, when the sides' positions have so much contradictions," concludes the paper.

According to an alternative explanation offered by "Zerkalo," the interests of mediators diverge, and Russia openly demonstrates its desire to snatch the peace initiative away from United States.

"The Karabakh problem will not be solved until the region gets international peacekeeping forces, because today nobody on both sides of the conflict wants to take the responsibility for peace," considers Brenda Shaffer, the program director in the Caspian Research Center of Harvard University, in an interview with "525-gazeti." "Peacekeeping forces must come from Russia and Turkey, the countries with an interest in this region," she says.

(Samira Gaziyeva and Elkhan Nasibov)