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Azerbaijani Oppositionists Go On Trial

  • RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

SAKI, Azerbaijan -- Two opposition leaders have gone on trial in the northern Azerbaijani city of Saki.

Ilqar Mammadov, the head of the Republican Alternative (REAL) opposition movement, and Tofiq Yaqublu, the deputy head of the opposition Musavat (Equality) party, were arrested in February and charged with helping to organize riots in the town of Ismayilli, northwest of the capital, Baku.

On January 23, thousands of Ismayilli residents demanded the resignation of the district's governor, setting fire to his residence, cars, and a local motel.

Yaqublu and Mammadov arrived in Ismayilli the following day and called for civil disobedience.

RFE/RL's correspondent reports from Saki that some 200 people gathered in front of the courthouse because the courtroom -- with a capacity of 50 people -- was filled mainly by police.

Rachel Denber, Europe and Central Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), has called for Mammadov's and Yaqublu's immediate release from detention.