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Azerbaijani Police Break Up Anticorruption Rally


Participants at the Institute for Peace and Democracy's unsanctioned anticorruption rally in Baku on July 19.

Participants at the Institute for Peace and Democracy's unsanctioned anticorruption rally in Baku on July 19.

BAKU -- Azerbaijani police have moved to quash a demonstration in Baku supporting an anticorruption campaign launched earlier this year by President Ilham Aliyev, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Prior to the protest, employees from the Baku-based Institute for Peace and Democracy and local residents attached balloons to trees in front of the institute and put placards on the walls reading: "Yes to the law, no to corruption!"

But police came and burst the balloons and tore down the signs.

Leyla Yunus, the rights activist who heads the institute, told RFE/RL the group supports Aliyev's antigraft campaign.

"But the police are trying to prevent our activity. They are violating the law by not allowing us to display [our] slogans," she said.

Mukhtar Mukhtarov, head of the public security department at Baku's Nasimi district police office, said Yunus was violating public order by staging an unapproved gathering.

"She is drawing attention by hanging balloons here," he said. "Public order is being violated. Let them protect their legal rights by lawful means. Let them appeal to the court, the relevant district executive office."

Institute for Peace and Democracy staff flew more balloons after the police left. Dozens of local residents participated.

Institute staffers also handed out a list of recommendations on fighting corruption. Azerbaijanis whose property rights have been violated were advised to film corrupted officials' when they make illegal demands, post the video on the Internet, inscribe anticorruption slogans on their homes, and hang placards on their balconies.

Many local observers say the government's antigraft campaign has yielded few results. Dozens of low-level officials have been dismissed or jailed, but many of them were later released or reinstated to their former positions.

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