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Azerbaijani Opposition Youth Activists' Trial Begins

Yeni Fikir members in court at preliminary hearing on March 31 (Turan) BAKU, April 5, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Three Azerbaijani youth activists accused of receiving foreign funds to overthrow the government appeared in court today.

Ruslan Basirli, Said Nuriyev, and Ramin Tagiyev were arrested ahead of the November 2005 parliamentary elections. They are being tried behind closed doors.

Basirli's lawyer, Osman Kazimov, told RFE/RL that the defendants are refusing to be represented at the trial.

"They decided to refuse our help," he said. "They said that if the court does not meet their demands [for an open trial], then they don't need to be represented at the trial by lawyers. They also refused to defend themselves."

The Baku office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) today expressed concern at the presiding judge's decision to close the trial to the public.

The three defendants belong to Yeni Fikir (New Thinking), a youth movement close to the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (AXCP). They say the charges brought against them are fabricated.

(RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service)