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Azerbaijan Report: November 10, 2003

10 November 2003
Pressure Against Oppositionists Continues
The people arrested in wake of the 15-16 October unrest in Baku are at present detained at Bailov prison and the number of detainees continues to rise, according to Chingiz Ganizade, director of the Committee for Democracy and Human Rights. At a 7 November press conference, the lawyers of the detained opposition activists complained that their clients are prohibited from reading newspapers and listening to radio.

On 6 November, OSCE Baku Office head Peter Burkhard expressed concern over the growing number of complaints and reports that people are being fired from their jobs for political motives. "We are concerned about the number of complaints and reports regarding such dismissals, especially of persons working in state budgetary organizations and enterprises," Burkhard said. "These cases raise questions as to whether the principles of the rule of law have been observed." He also recalled that his office is mandated to promote Baku's implementation of its international obligations.

"42 out of 89 detained people and 30 out of 100 dismissed from work following the 15 October [presidential election] are Musavat activists," according to the opposition Musavat Election Headquarters staff. Among the arrested are the party Election Headquarters chairman and the heads of 13 district party organizations.

At a 3 November press conference, Gulaga Aslanli, the Musavat plenipotentiary representative at the Central Election Commission, stated that arrests and other pressures have a negative effect on the party's activities.

(Almaz Mahmudgizi and Kebiran Dilaverli)

Opposition Hesitates over Government's Proposal for Dialogue
The authorities' proposal for dialogue is aimed at forming a negative opinion about the opposition at international organizations, according to Ali Kerimli, head of the People's Front Party (AXCP). In an interview with RFE/RL, Kerimli pointed out that the proposal to begin a dialogue has been directed at specific persons, which points to futility of the proposal. The opposition has always supported the establishment of civil relations, but the government has never treated the issue with sufficient seriousness, Kerimli said.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Experts Cast Doubt on Major Shifts in Government Composition
At present cardinal changes within the ruling team are not expected, according to Mahal Ismailoglu, former editor of the governmental newspaper "Khalg." President Ilham Aliev's opinion on this coincides with that of presidential administration head Ramiz Mehdiev. Mehdiev, one of the powerful figures within the government, is against liberalization and this make reforms impossible. But Ismailoglu does not rule out certain staff shifts; some ministers can be dismissed from office, for example. Ismailoglu pointed out that if the president wanted to become the decisive figure by taking control of law-enforcement bodies, he would face resistance from Mehdiev. Although until the inauguration Aliyev did not make attempts in this direction, he will have a need for this after that.

Azer Garachenli, editor of the newspaper "Avropa," does not believe that reforms are imminent either. But according to him, the formation of Ilham Aliev's team got underway during the years when his father was still president But this process has not been completed. At present members of the "old guard" form the backbone of the government and to dismiss them summarily could deprive Ilham Aliyev of big power. As the internal political processes proceed beyond the law and rules of game, it is difficult to predict the further developments, Garachenli concluded.

(Babek Bekir)

U.S. Congress to Discusses Presidential Elections
The disputed presidential election in Azerbaijan will be discussed at a 13 November hearing in the Helsinki Committee of the U.S. Congress. Isa Gambar of Musavat, Rasul Guliev of the Democrat (ADP), Etibar Mamedov of the National Independence (AMIP) and Ali Kerimli of the People's Front (AXCP) parties have been invited to the hearing. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether they will be able to participate in these discussions.

Kerimli, who considers participation important, pointed out that he was invited to events in the United States before the hearing in the Senate was scheduled, and his participation in the hearing will depend on these events.

Despite the allegation in the local media that Musavat chairman Gambar will not take part in the meeting due to financial problems, Gambar himself has said he will participate in the hearings. ADP chairman Guliev will take place in the meeting without fail, according to ADP activist Nureddin Memmedli. As for the AMIP chairman Mamedov, he stated unambiguously that his party will not attend this hearing.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)