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Azerbaijani Diplomat Wanted For 'Corruption' After Facebook Post

  • RFE/RL

Azerbaijani authorities are seeking the arrest of a former diplomat abroad after he publicly criticized the government following a deadly Baku apartment-building fire.

Azerbaijan's Prosecutor-General's Office says Arif Mammadov, the former chief of mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's delegation to the European Union, is suspected of embezzlement, abuse of office, and forgery.

In its August 12 statement, the Prosecutor-General's Office said that Mammadov misused budgetary funds and forged documents to steal tens of thousands of euros in state money in 2007-2012.

Mammadov's current whereabouts is unknown.

In June, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said it had launched an internal investigation into a scandal that erupted over comments on Facebook in which Mammadov lambasted the government and Baku city authorities for a May 19 fire that killed 15 residents of an apartment tower.

The deadly blaze prompted residents of the Azerbaijani capital to criticize the city's beautification efforts ahead of the inaugural European Games, which were held in June in Baku.

Officials in Baku said then that a flammable material used in a renovation of the building's facade was responsible for the disaster.

"There is no nation that would stand that shame and injustice," Mammadov wrote on his Facebook page in May. "Officials earn millions on our people's sufferings, and if they do not fear our people's anger, they must fear God's wrath!"

The pro-government website Haqqin.az immediately labeled Mammadov a "traitor" and suggested that a number of Azerbaijani diplomats who allegedly "liked" Mammadov's Facebook post could be involved in a conspiracy against the state.

Mammadov, who has led Azerbaijan's missions to the European Union and European Council in the past, responded to the allegations on Facebook, saying he was "extremely surprised by the amount of dirt poured on me by Haqqin.az only because I repeated the recent comments made by the president."

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev harshly criticized Baku city authorities over the deadly fire and warned that all city officials responsible for the blaze and the renovation of old buildings would be held accountable.

Aliyev, who has tolerated little dissent and shrugged off Western criticism of Azerbaijan's poor human rights record, came to power in 2003 shortly before the death of his father, Heidar Aliyev, who had ruled newly independent Azerbaijan with an iron fist since 1993.

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