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Azerbaijan: Opposition Rallies In Baku As Aliyev Still Hospitalized

Baku, 2 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Several thousand supporters of the political opposition in Azerbaijan have rallied in Baku amid continuing questions about the health of President Heidar Aliyev (pictured). The protesters demanded that Aliev, who remains hospitalized in Turkey, prove that he is fit to govern. Protesters also called for the 15 October presidential election, in which Aliyev plans to stand for re-election, to be free and fair.

Azerbaijani officials again denied on 2 August reports that the 80-year-old Aliyev is seriously ill or even dead, as some Turkish media reported on 1 August.

The president has been undergoing medical treatment at Ankara's Gulhane military hospital since 8 July, when he flew to Turkey for what officials called routine medical checks.

It is the second time since April that Aliyev has been in the hospital in Turkey.

Aliyev and his son, Ilham, have been officially registered by the electoral commission to stand in the October election.