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Azerbaijan: Rights Groups Condemn Police Raid

Vienna, 7 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Baku-based Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan today condemned a police raid in the eastern Azerbaijani town of Nardaran that left several people injured. In a joint statement, the two organizations demand a "thorough and impartial" investigation into the circumstances of the 5 February raid and a similar operation that took place eight months ago. At least one Nardaran resident was killed and 15 injured in June of last year when police forces intervened to disperse protestors demanding better social services.

The two rights groups also demand that all civilians being held in connection with these two events in the absence of valid legal charges be immediately released or, if such charges exist, that detainees be brought before an "impartial and competent tribunal."

Azerbaijani authorities claim Nardaran is a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. But residents deny the accusation, saying they have only social demands.