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Trial Of Azerbaijani Opposition Leaders Begins

7 May 2004 -- The trial of seven Azerbaijani opposition leaders started in Baku today but was quickly postponed.

The trial is seen by some international human rights organizations as a test of freedom and rule of the law in the country.

Among those on trial were Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat"; Umid Party Chairman Igbal Agazade; People's Party Chairman Panakh Huseinov; and Democratic Party Secretary-General Sardar Djalaloglu.

They are accused of leading protests last year that ended in clashes with police.

Police barred scores of independent journalists from attending the hearing, allowing only reporters from pro-government media to enter.

Amnesty International has appealed to Azerbaijan's authorities to ensure the trial would be free and fair.

The trial is due to resume next week.