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Protesters wrapped in blankets were staging a sit-in Baku when riot police detained all participants.

Azerbaijani police have detained more than 20 opposition and independent candidates who were protesting against results of early parliamentary polls that were also criticized by international observers.

Protesters wrapped in blankets were staging a sit-in on the pavement outside Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission (CEC) building on February 11 when riot police detained all participants and put them on buses.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov said the action was illegal and that participants had not been complying with the law.

According to the CEC the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan) party won 70 out of 125 seats in the single-chamber legislature, while nearly all the remaining mandates went to small parties and independents loyal to President Ilham Aliyev.

International monitors said they had identified widespread procedural violations in a vote count that they said raised doubt about the fairness of the election.

Aliyev called the vote nine months early to consolidate his authority.

The opposition said the election was marred by widespread violations which included ballot-box stuffing.

With reporting by Reuters
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (file photo)

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a leading member of the Russian anti-Kremlin protest group Pussy Riot, has said a video clip whose production was shut down by police in St. Petersburg for two days in a row, was meant to describe her feelings when she and another group member were imprisoned in 2012.

Tolokonnikova and twelve other people were detained for hours during a photography session in a studio on February 10, band member Pyotr Verzilov and Tolokonnikova’s former spouse said in a social media post.

Police the previous day disrupted the band’s video shoot at the Lenfilm movie studio in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-biggest city.

Tolokonnikova and another leading band member, Maria Alyokhina, achieved prominence in 2012 after they were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for a stunt in which band members burst into Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral and sang a "punk prayer" against then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was campaigning for his return to the presidency at the time.

Tolokonnikova told RFE/RL on February 11 that the planned video clip was based on a song titled Besit (It Drives Me Mad) which was written by her .

"This is a song about resistance to the state and about how bitter it is to feel yourself an enemy of the state in your own homeland. I sing about the feelings I had when we were incarcerated and so many people were running around demanding that we must be burned alive or crucified because we are enemies of the state. Meanwhile, we were not given any chance to say something in our defense as we were caged. It was painful," Tolokonnikova said.

Tolokonnikova also said that police cited an "extremism and gay propaganda" law for shutting down the video shoot.

"We are very frustrated but we will not give up and will do everything to shoot the video, but we do not know where, at this point," Tolokonnikova said.

"There is a list of people marked by the state as extremists and we are included in that list. Therefore, whatever we do, even if we organize an event just to plant flowers, it will be interrupted by the anti-extremist unit."

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were close to completing their two-year prison sentences when they were freed in December 2013 under an amnesty they dismissed as a propaganda stunt to improve Putin's image ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

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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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