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Azerbaijan Report: January 15, 2002

15 January 2002
Political Prisoners' Cases To Be Reviewed
The list of political prisoners Azerbaijani lawyers submitted to the Council of Europe has aggravated the ties between that organisation and Azerbaijani officials. The Azerbaijani delegation to PACE even left the session of that organisation which was discussing the relevant issue. The Council of Europe demands that the Azerbaijani government release the 300 political prisoners. When Azerbaijan was accepted into the Council of Europe, it made commitments to reconsider the cases of Isgandar Hamidov, Rahim Gaziev and Alikram Humbatov.

An Azerbaijani delegation led by Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev left on 11 January for Strasbourg to meet with the Council of Europe leadership. The visit came immediately after a CE official in Azerbaijan issued a statement about the possibility that Azerbaijan might be expelled from that organisation. On his return from Strasbourg, Guliev informed an ANS reporter about the meetings he held with the Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer who expressed confidence that everything will be settled. Then he met with PACE Secretary General Bruno Halleem. The same opinions were expressed in this meeting as well.

Alikram Humbatov, who was once accused of splitting Azerbaijan's territorial integrity sent an appeal to the Sebayil District Court demanding that legal proceedings be brought against Aydin Gasimov, Head of the Ministry of Justice Chief department for Execution of Court Rulings. Gasimov is liable for prosecution for insulting Humbatov's honour and dignity as well as for payment of material damage. According to the Head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, Leila Yunus, Humbatov also claims that Gasimov exerts physical and psychological pressure on political prisoners. She said she contacted Gasimov who said Humbatov's accusations are groundless. Yunus was also told that she can visit the prisoners at any time.

Lawyer Chingiz Ganizade expressed concern that the retrial of the above prisoners will begin next week. The judges who will preside at the trial are experienced judges of the Appeals Court. But the trial will show how independent they are. The fact that the trial will be closed also gives grounds for concern, as does the fact that the list of political prisoners includes the names of the persons who violated Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. For this reason, the lawyers' situation is not to be envied.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Another Protest Action Staged In Baku
The Union of Azerbaijanist Forces staged a protest action at midday on 12 January in front of the Galaba cinema. In his opening remarks, Araz Alizade, co-chairman of the Social Democrat Party, said that police officials prevented people in some parts of the city from attending the meeting. Moreover, they detained the members of their Ganja, Salyan, Neftchala branches. However, Alizade thanked the picketers for coming.

Other speakers to the meeting included Haji Jebrail Alizadeh, Chairman of the Union of Baku and Villages, Vahid Mammadov, deputy Head of the Namus Party, and Shakir Abbasov, a member of the Vahdat Party, who said that none of their demands can be achieved while Heydar Aliyev remains in power. The liberation of Karabakh, supplying people with bread and jobs is possible only after the collapse of this regime, Abbasov argued. The supporters of the Islamic Party were very active in the protest action.

Another member of the Union of Baku and Villages, Melahet Babayeva, criticised the opposition, saying that opposition leaders should acknowledge that people are fed up with them. Nobody will allow them to come to power after so many mistakes, she said.

Alikram Aliev, chairman of the Islamic Party who was once accused of treachery against the state, said that Islam means striving for justice and fairness, not oppression and injustice.

Then the light went out but the action continued. Participants adopted a resolution demanding that the Azerbaijani president reject the mediation of international organisations and bilateral meetings in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The resolution also reads that the government should demand the UN Security Council implement its resolutions and impose political and economic sanctions against Armenia as an aggressor state. It was also stressed that the terms put forth for repeal of Section 907 are contradictory to Azerbaijan's interests and they should be rejected. The final provision of the resolution demands that if the government fails to act on those demands it should resign.

(Babek Bekir)

Women Of The Azerbaijan Democrat Party Stage Protest Action
The Azerbaijan Democrat Party (ADP) organised a women's protest action on 12 January to demand the resignation of the Azerbaijani president. Women from over 20 socio-political organisations staged the action not in Galaba square as the Baku municipal authorities suggested but near the Monument to Free Woman in accordance with their own wish. When the women wanted to go to the Fizuli Square they were blocked by the police and another group of women who attacked the picketers before the eyes of the police. The action the police to smile and surprised the ADP women. The organizers said it was plotted by the police and did not justify the police's standing aside and not hindering the attackers.

The more the women insisted on staging the picket, the more the another group of women tried to prevent them. Then some women members of the Democrat Party were forced into cars and taken farther away, as were some men who wanted to help the women.

Additional police forces were brought to disrupt the action. An RFE/RL Azerbaijani service correspondent asked Yashar Aliev, Deputy Head of the Baku Chief Police Department to explain why some participants were arrested, but he denied any arrests took place. The women who tried to block the action wished Heydar Aliyev and his son Ilham Aliyev long life.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

The newspaper "Ekho" carries an interview with Musavat party leader Isa Gambar, who says that today there are no grounds to discuss relations between the opposition and government and indulge in mutual accusations. Gambar termed unacceptable the possibility that Azerbaijan may be stripped of its Council of Europe membership. Neither the unification of the opposition nor the issue of its single candidate for the presidency is urgent now. According to the Musavat leader, serious steps should be taken to prevent the situation deteriorating. Stressing that Musavat also has a list of political prisoners, Gambar said the Azerbaijani government should seriously study whose names are on the list.

Azer Huseinbala in an article carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that as the government has problems with international organisations, it cannot directly exert pressure on citizens and the recent protest action staged by women members of the Democrat Party of Azerbaijan proves this. The government has begun to use women in order to thwart protest actions. The author writes that even individual politicians do not abstain from insulting each other. It also shows that some human qualities considered normal are being distorted.

Zahid Safaroglu in an article carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the present Azerbaijani government can never regulate relations with international organisations. The lack of interest in the development of democracy, which has given rise to serious problems for Azerbaijan, is given as one of the reasons. Azerbaijan is has been asked to release many prisoners unconditionally. Azerbaijan should have anticipated the present situation and prepared its arguments. But it is too late now, the demands must either be implemented or Azerbaijan can be expelled from the organisation. The government has a certain role in it like non-governmental organisations and opposition politicians.

Zarnishan Aghagizi writes in "Yeni Azerbaijan" that Azerbaijan's history of independence is full of horrible events reflecting historical treachery. According to the author, Azerbaijan felt proud when it was accepted into the Council of Europe and was preparing now to celebrate the anniversary of its acceptance into this organisation. He writes that unobjective information is being received from this organisation at this moment. Stressing that the talks about political prisoners are far from reality, the author writes that developments can be called objective only in the event that the Council of Europe makes strict demands on Azerbaijan. Though displeasing, it must be noted that Alikram Humbatov, Rahim Gaziev, Surat Huseynov and dozens of other prisoners were arrested for not political goals but separatist tendencies.

The newspaper "Hurriyyet" carries an article about the reasons for the resignation of Professor Azad Mirzajanzadeh, Chairman of the Supreme Attestation Commission. The interesting fact is that the resignation has political motives. The newspaper refers to non-official information claiming that Mirzajanzadeh's resignation is connected with Vasif Talibov, Chairman of the Supreme Assembly of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. According the author, there were rumours after the resignation that it was connected with the ruling family. Azad Mirzajanzadeh resigned as he did not approve of Vasif Talibov's dissertation which he plans to defend in the U.S.

The article "Dual standards of the Council of Europe" carried by the newspaper "525" reads that the organisation is blackmailing Azerbaijan over the political prisoners. The international accusations directed against Azerbaijan regarding political prisoners are based on such a dangerous factor as Christian fundamentalism. It must be admitted that the current attitude of some European structures to Moslem countries is based on religious discrimination. Though strange, a group of lawyers accuse their counterparts of getting grants from abroad. However there are solid grounds to accuse these people. Everybody has a share in these people being called political prisoners. Now the Council of Europe refers to that information and blackmails Azerbaijan. It is still uncertain how the struggle will end. Not only the government but also the public are displeased with the developments.

Hikmet Sabiroglu writes in"Azadlig" that the current developments create conditions for shelving numerous problems including the Karabakh conflict. He said there was a lot of talk last year about Karabakh, but the government's peace contracts after the cease-fire regime destroyed the last strongholds of wise policy. It became clear that the government's internal as well as foreign policy collapsed. Apparently, the Western diplomats who set the terms for Azerbaijan could predict the people's and their leaders' reaction. All the forecasts met the expectations finally. Azerbaijan will get out of the blind alley of defeat sooner or later, but in order to do so serious work must be done to defend state interests and some people must be imprisoned.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)