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Azerbaijan Report: December 14, 2001

14 December 2001
Journalists Released With Conditional Sentence
Yagub Abbasov, founder of the newspaper "Ulus," and Surkhay Gojayev, assistant editor in chief of that newspaper, were arrested five months ago on charges of using physical violence against their employee Aybeniz Ilgar. Even though they were tried more than once, no substantial evidence was provided. Because of this, Abbasov and Gojayev were released but they received a suspended sentence. The two journalists held a press conference on 12 December at the headquarters of the Azerbaijan Democrat Party (ADP) at which they appealed to fellow journalists to help them have the court ruling repealed. Abbasov said that they were arrested on political orders and the court ruling is unfair. But they will have this ruling repealed sooner or later. But the problem is that the government does not give up persecuting members of their party. According to Abbasov, their arrest is part of the pressure campaign against the ADP and its leader Rasul Guliev.

Abbasov claims that they did not resort to violence against Aybeniz Ilgar. Even though they knew beforehand they were going to be arrested, they did not expect their own employee would be used to that end. They also noted that two of Guliev's bodyguards and two members of his family have also recently been arrested. Guliev's relatives claim that they have no young member of the family to take food to the imprisoned. Abbasov and Gojayev are also related to Guliev.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

U.S. Defence Secretary To Visit Azerbaijan
U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld is due to visit Azerbaijan on 15 December. Rumsfeld is to meet with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and Defence Minister Safar Abiyev and hold a press conference. The sides will discuss the development and perspectives of military ties between Azerbaijan and the U.S. as well as joint efforts to combat international terrorism. Rumsfeld will also discuss the possibility of U.S. servicemen using Azerbaijan's military airfields. Rumsfeld will also visit Georgia and Armenia for similar talks.

Azerbaijan's former state advisor Vafa Guluzadeh highly evaluates the U.S. Defence Secretary's visit to Azerbaijan. According to Guluzadeh, such visits open major perspectives for U.S.-Azerbaijani military ties and contribute to their strengthening and expansion, and thus can significantly shape Azerbaijan's future orientation.

Military expert Azad Isazade told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that the planned visit of such a high-ranking U.S. official to Baku proves that Azerbaijan interests America. According to Isazadeh, the visit is aimed at changing the situation and establishing a security system in the region. This security system must prevent any danger for the South Caucasian countries in future.

(Abdulla Huseinoglu)

Musavat Party Forced To Leave Its Headquarters
The Musavat Party has informed RFE/RL that the Shahriyar Cultural palace, where Musavat's headquarters are located has refused to renew the party's lease agreement for next year. According to the newspaper "Yeni Musavat", the leadership of the palace says that the building belongs to Baku municipal authorities and the latter should give their consent to the signing of a new lease agreement. The Musavat party has now appealed to the Ministry for Economic Development and the Baku municipal authorities.

Musavat first deputy chairman Vurghun Eyyub told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that the government is acting according to statements made at the second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party and creates obstacles for the activity of opposition parties. According to Eyyub, if the government continues its pressure against Musavat then they will appeal to international organisations and foreign embassies working in Azerbaijan. If an attempt is made to evict them forcibly from their headquarters, they will try to defend themselves.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Journalists Stage Picket
The Baku police used violence to dispersed a picket journalists staged on 12 December in front of the premises of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party to defend freedom of speech. Police officials confronted them and confiscated the placards they were carrying. Editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" Rauf Arifoglu, an employee of the newspaper "Express" Elman Maliyev and the chairman of the Journalists' Trade Unions, Azer Hesret, were forced into police cars; Hesret was brutally beaten. The police officials forced the journalist to retreat to the premises of the newspaper "Azadlig" where some of them wanted to take refuge, but Aflatun Amashov, Chairman of the Committee for Protection of the Journalists' Rights RUH appealed to them to continue the protest. Then a new confrontation began between the police officials and journalists. This time, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Hurriyyet" Aydin Guliev and a correspondent of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" were arrested.

The confrontation lasted for one hour. Then the picketers held a press conference at the editorial offices of "Azadlig" at which they announced that they will resort to more organised protest actions in future.

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service was told later that all those detained were released.

(Babek Bekir)

The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" writes that the territory of TRACECA member states can become one of the transit corridors for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. According to the newspaper, the TRACECA commission has proposed rebuilding the Baku-Nakhchivan- Yerevan railway. It was declared last week in the final session of TRACECA member states held in Tbilisi. The session adopted 16 new projects and sent them to the European Commission. The projects will be realised in 2002-2003 and are of a regional character. They include the reconstruction of Poti and Batumi ports and a feasibility report for restoration of the Samtredia-Sukhumi-Sochi and Baku-Nakhchivan-Yerevan railways.

Hikmet Sabiroglu in an article entitled "There is no way back" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that it is not a secret to anybody that the intensifying ties among the opponents and the government lead to resolute confrontation. There is no way back. Either Heydar Aliyev must implement the last plan of his political career or society must hinder it and present an alternative. Azerbaijan's future and the people's fate depend on the result of this struggle. Because of this, the opposition should think of uniting. The author writes that preparation for an opposition summit is underway. It will be difficult for the majority of them to work together. But there are many issues to be discussed and the factors listed above should not be forgotten. Saving the country is crucial and should take precedence over such difficulties.

Fakhri Kerimli writes in the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" that the prospect of a Caucasus Stability Pact has spurred pro-Russian forces in Georgia into action. If this pact proposed by Turkey is signed, then the Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan alliance in the Caucasus will acquire new meaning. Taking into consideration that Turkey is NATO's stronghold in the region, then it becomes clear which forces strengthen their positions over the Caucasus. Because of this, Russia is not satisfied with the position of the Caucasian countries, particularly Georgia. Instead, Georgia tries to force Russian military forces to withdraw from its territory which negatively affect bilateral relations. This has made the pro-Russian forces in Georgia more active. Some 53 percent of the population in south of Georgia are Armenians and they make 98 percent of the people in Akhalkalaki. Russia uses them to violate peace and stability in the Caucasus.

Rahib Kazimli writes in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that the opposition and independent papers have one last chance to put an end to the unfair actions of the government. According to Kazimli, demanding the restoration of justice is also their right. He writes that Heydar Aliyev and his government are behind all developments. Kazimli recalls that when Aliyev came to power, some people knowing his way of governing made incredible predictions about what was in store for the country. Shortly after Aliyev came to power, some optimists also lost confidence in the government. The author writes that the local population who gradually become deprived of everything are using now oil lamps in Azerbaijan's capital.

Liberal Party chairwoman Lale Shovkat Hajiyeva in an interview with the newspaper "525" says that the people are de-facto oppressed by the opposition. Hajiyeva says they are also oppressed by themselves. According to her, the opposition has created such attitude by holding regular events. There must be practical work. As stated by Hajiyeva, even though they take part in the opposition's events, they promise nothing good for them. But before, the opposition held 4-year struggle for Heydar Aliyev to come to power. Hajiyeva says that then there were no projects, agreements or meetings but they were engaged in serious work. However everything is different now. Hajiyeva thinks that the opposition should establish a joint meeting committee to hold joint and serious events. Today nobody should demonstrate force to others.

Aziz, in the newspaper "Khalg" comments on the situation in the opposition camp. The author writes that the opposition members cannot hinder the establishment of organisations of the same name. The process is apparent in the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP). Ali Kerimli leads APFP-1 and Mirmahmud Mirelioglu is the leader of APFP-2. Now it is expected that APFP-3 will be established. Almurad Aliev, brother of APFP's late chairman Abulfaz Elchibey, has already established a press service and gathers the people close to him. The author writes that Almurad Aliyev can be declared APFP chairman in future. But both the reformer and the classical wings of APFP are confident that Aliyev will not declare the establishment of a new APFP. The author writes that the opposition has consistently simply hoped that things will turn out for the best rather than actually do anything concrete.

Javid Jabbaroglu writes in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that YAP functionaries continue telling lies about the press. After YAP's second congress, its members have intensified their attacks on their political rivals. YAP members accuse independent newspapers of being financed from abroad. Even though those people are not aware of local legislation and have committed a number of crimes, they criticise and insult media representatives. Because of this, the people are depressed. Now, the representatives of such government accuse the opposition and press of corruption, which can only be called an irony of fate.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)