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Azerbaijan

Soldier's Death Sparks Baku Protests

Əsgər ölümlərinə qarşı etiraz aksiyasından videogörüntüləri
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January 12, 2013
«Əsgər ölməsin, ordu morqa dönməsin!». Aksiyaçılar əllərində ölən əsgərlərin şəkilləri bu şüarı səsləndiriblər.

WATCH: RFE/RL footage of a rally in Baku protesting the treatment of army recruits (in Azeri).

By RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service
Hundreds of people have been demonstrating on Fountains Square in the center of the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, to raise awareness about the deaths of young army conscripts.

Initially, the rally had been largely peaceful despite a heavy police presence, but latest reports suggest that some altercations occurred after security authorities tried to move demonstrators off the square for holding an "illegal" protest.

Riot police have now blocked all the roads leading to Fountains Square and several organizers and activists have been detained by police.

Security personnel are also said to be pursuing groups of supporters who have dispersed all over the city.

The crowd in Fountains Square on January 12 called for the resignation of Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Safar Abiyev over what they say is a widespread problem of hazing and bullying within the country's armed forces.

Chanting slogans such as "Stop killing our soldiers" and "You must answer to us," some who gathered for the rally brandished photographs of young army personnel who they claim had died as a result of hazing.

The mother of one young conscript who died recently in Azerbaijan's military service told RFE/RL that she wants to see justice carried out.

"I am here to tell the whole world what has happened," she said. "I will not let my son's killers live without punishment. I will not be able to live [without justice]. How can I allow my second son to be sent into the service of my homeland?"

'Evidence Of Violence'

Meanwhile, the father of two other young conscripts told RFE/RL that both men were targeted by hazing violence shortly after reporting for service in the armed forces.

"My two sons were both conscripted and went into the service [of Azerbaijan's military forces.]" he said. "Now, one of them is in the grave and the other is lying injured in a hospital."

The demonstration comes following a public outcry over the suspicious death of a young soldier, Ceyhun Qubadov, on January 7.

Army authorities say Qubadov succumbed to a heart attack, but his family claim he was beaten to death and have published photographs of his body that appear to show evidence of violence.

Qubadov's death has put the Azerbaijani army's treatment of young army recruits under the spotlight and some 20,000 joined a Facebook group set up to promote the Baku protest rally on January 12.

Activists have also been collecting signatures for an online petition addressed to President Ilham Aliyev, urging him to address the situation faced by army conscripts.

Authorities in Baku, meanwhile, reportedly have agreed to launch a more thorough investigation into the cause of Qubadov's death.

WATCH: A dead Azerbaijani soldier's family seeks answers to his death
Family Of Dead Azerbaijani Soldier Seeks Answersi
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January 11, 2013
Azerbaijani soldier Ceyhun Qubadov died on January 7 of what his officers say was a heart attack. But his relatives say he was beaten to death. The case has raised public concerns about the mistreatment of army conscripts, and an opposition rally to protest the issue has been scheduled for January 12. (RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service)

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