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Solida Movlayeva, mother of jailed Azerbaijani youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev
BAKU -- The mother of jailed youth activist Bakhtiyar Haciyev was briefly detained on June 17 after leaving her membership card from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP) on the grave of former President Heydar Aliyev to protest the jail term given her son, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

A security guard told an RFE/RL correspondent filming the incident that Solida Movlayeva and an employee of the Baku-based Institute for Security and Freedom of Reporters were detained "to clarify the issue."

Movlayeva later told RFE/RL that she was told her YAP membership card will be returned to YAP Executive Secretary Ali Ahmadov.

Movlayeva, who is a secondary school teacher, announced during her son's trial in Ganca that she would quit the YAP.

Azerbaijani public-sector employees, including teachers and doctors, are under pressure to join the YAP.

Haciyev, who is 29 and a Harvard graduate, was jailed last month for two years for evading military service.

He ran unsuccessfully in the November 2010 parliamentary election.

The YAP won an overwhelming majority of seats in the election, which international observers and monitoring groups said was marred by numerous procedural irregularities.

Read more in Azeri and watch a video here
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Democracy, Thomas Melia
BAKU -- A visiting U.S. State Department official said in Baku that Washington is urging Azerbaijan to improve its rights record and "open up" its political process, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Thomas Melia, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said on June 16 that "we have been urging our friends in the Azerbaijani government to take steps to move toward greater respect for human rights and opening up the political process [in Azerbaijan]."

"Support for democratization and greater respect for human rights is a priority for our bilateral relationships with Azerbaijan," he said.

Melia added that RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service and its ban from FM broadcasts "is really important to us and we tried to convey that to our colleagues in the Azerbaijani government.... There is no good reason why Radio Liberty shouldn't be broadcast [in Azerbaijan]."

Azerbaijani authorities suspended the retransmission of RFE/RL's Azeri-language broadcasts in 2009.

Melia also focused on Azerbaijan's poor track record in ensuring free and fair elections.

"I think all experts agree that there are some major impediments to fair elections, to the free functioning of the media, and the operation of the opposition's political parties," he said. "All of these things need to be resolved for Azerbaijan to modernize and to join the ranks of the 21st century countries that are succeeding.

Melia added that "we are cooperating with Azerbaijan in many fields and we'll continue to press for further improvements on democracy and human rights as part of our partnership."

Melia said he met the leaders of extraparliamentary political parties, media representatives, civil and human rights activists, and journalists.

He also visited the grave of opposition journalist Elmar Huseynov, whose murder six years ago remains unsolved.

Melia said he hopes "progress can be made on that, and that other threats to independent journalism can be removed and...journalists can do [their] jobs as [they] should in a modern and democratic Azerbaijan."

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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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