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Azerbaijan Cited For Political Harassment, Police Brutality

Fikret Huseynli, a reporter with the "Azadliq" opposition newspaper, was abducted and beaten in Baku last week (Turan) PRAGUE, March 8, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department today said that Azerbaijan's human rights record remained poor last year amid numerous and continuous abuses.

It said in its 2005 annual report on human rights worldwide that the most serious concerns include police violence against detainees, harassment of political opponents, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and excessive use of force to disperse demonstrations.

Another matter of concern is the restricted right of citizens to peacefully change their government. The report notes that if the November 6 legislative elections showed some improvements, they still did not meet a number of international standards.

The State Department, however, welcomes President Ilham Aliyev's decision to pardon most remaining political prisoners identified as such by the Council of Europe and vacate the sentences of seven opposition leaders who had been convicted in the aftermath of the flawed 2003 presidential polls.

For an overview of the State Department report, click here.