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Baxtiyar Haciyev received a two-year prison sentence
A Baku court has rejected an appeal by a former parliament candidate and social media activist for early release from his prison term.
Baxtiyar Haciyev (aka Bakhtiyar Hajiyev), 29, is a Harvard graduate and member of the Positive Change movement. He was arrested on March 4 ahead of a protest against the government that he was promoting through social media.
Haciyev was sentenced in mid-May to two years in prison for evading military service, a charge he rejects. He was eligible for parole because he has served one-third of his sentence.
Intiqam Aliyev, who heads a group seeking to defend Haciyev's rights, told RFE/RL that today's appeal was held behind closed doors despite his organization's demand for the hearing to be held in public.
An official in Baku's Qaradag district court told RFE/RL that Haciyev was given a negative assessment of his jail time by prison management, which led the court to rule that he is unrepentent.
International rights watchdogs have called on Azerbaijani authorities to release Haciyev and other jailed opposition activists.
Activist Cabbar Savalan was released on December 26 after being granted a presidential pardon.
Haciyev, who ran unsuccessfully for parliament in November 2010, had said previously that he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if it is not resolved satisfactorily.

Read more in Azeri here
Eldar Namazov, one of the members of the Forum of Intelligentsia of Azerbaijan
BAKU -- A Forum of Intelligentsia of Azerbaijan meeting in Baku has been canceled when the hotel used as the venue said it could not host the meeting due to "technical problems," RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Leyla Ramazanova, sales coordinator at the Hyatt Regency's sales and marketing department, told RFE/RL that "the electricity, heating, and security systems have been damaged. Therefore we have cancelled events in this part of the hotel. We are working to resolve the problem."
Political scientist Eldar Namazov told RFE/RL the hotel's explanation for canceling the meeting is unconvincing.
"We have encountered such a situation more than once," he said. "Government officials have addressed very aggressive statements against members of the Forum of Intelligentsia. No doubt it's an attempt to silence the forum, to prevent its activity. We denounce these actions. One cannot silence or intimidate intellectuals with such pressure and illegal actions."
Nazamov said an agreement was signed with the hotel and a deposit paid to rent the room.
"The forum...will certainly find a way to hold this event. We'll inform the media about the place and time in the near future," he said.
A similar incident occurred last week during a celebration at a Baku restaurant to mark the 22nd anniversary of the opposition newspaper "Azadliq." Fifteen minutes after it started the electricity was cut off. A restaurant manager told RFE/RL he received a phone call "from above" to stop the event.
The Forum of Intelligentsia of Azerbaijan was established two years ago to promote the discussion of issues of concern to the population. It has organized three meetings this year to call for dialogue between the authorities and the public in order to defuse tensions.
At its last gathering on November 4, forum member Rafiq Aliyev expressed concern at the possibility of civil unrest. He was then removed from his post at the Azerbaijan Oil Academy a few days later.
In a statement posted on the website of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP) (), YAP Executive Secretary Ali Ahmadov described the forum as "a club of frustrated intelligentsia." He added that they are motivated primarily by "unfulfilled personal aspirations."
"Someone wants to solve their problems so [he/she] gathers a group of people around him and tries to carve out a niche for himself in society," Ahmadov said. "Sooner or later people will understand how they have been deceived."
Ahmadov said that "on the one hand, the members of the [Forum of Intelligentsia of Azerbaijan] say they are not engaged in politics, but on the other hand, they issue political statements and behave like political figures."
He added that "I don't mean that the intelligentsia should not express opinions about what is happening in the country...[but] before criticizing something in Azerbaijan, one should admit that huge development and positive changes [have taken place]. Everybody -- the critics themselves and their children -- are part of this development and positive changes."

Read more in Azeri here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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