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Four Activists Charged Over Baku Antigovernment Protest

Riot police broke up the April 2 protest in downtown Baku.

Riot police broke up the April 2 protest in downtown Baku.

BAKU -- Four opposition activists in Azerbaijan have been charged over the April 2 antigovernment rally that was dispersed by riot police, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Three activists were ordered held in detention for two months -- Arif Hajili of the opposition Musavat party, Tural Abbasli of Musavat's youth organization, and Mammad Majidli, a member of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP).

The three, along with APFP deputy chairman Fuad Qahramanli, were charged with organizing "actions resulting in violation of public order and resisting and using force against government officials."

Qahramanli was later released but will remain under police surveillance pending completion of the investigation.

The opposition umbrella organization the Public Chamber said the whereabouts of three other activists is unknown.

Some 13 activists were given administrative punishments ranging from three to eight days after riot police broke up the protest in downtown Baku.

Riot police armed with rubber bullets, tear gas, and batons detained dozens of protesters, including women, and forced them into buses.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) today criticized the authorities' handling of the protest.

"The overall detention of 174 people during and prior to a protest drawing less than 1,000 people is a big number," said Ambassador Bilge Cankorel, head of the OSCE's Baku office.

"On the other side, police did not interfere in the unsanctioned picket in front of a political party leader. The OSCE Baku office does not accept this different attitude."

The Public Chamber is planning its next major protest for April 16; a final decision will be made at its April 9 meeting.

The Public Chamber was established after the November 7 parliamentary elections. It includes several opposition parties, NGOs, and individuals.

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