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Azerbaijan Report: March 15, 2002

15 March 2002
Former Military Prosecutor Assasinated
The head of investigations for the prosecutor general's office was shot dead Wednesday evening in Baku, police said. Rovshan Aliyev was hit by six shots while on the street at the entrance of a house, the Baku police department said. Prosecutors are investigating, and many top ranking officials in the Interior Ministry are also involved in the probe. In an interview with the local press Rovshan Aliev's wife stated that she knows who killed her husband and she will reveal this if anything happens to her family.

Azerbaijani President Signed Amnesty Decree
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev signed a further amnesty decree on 14 March pardoning 89 prisoners.They include four women and four teenagers. The sentences of eight prisoners were cut by half. The pardoned prisoners include Turkish citizen Hasan Toku, imprisoned on charges of planning to assassinate the Azerbaijani president, and a number of persons who committed grave crimes. Azerbaijani lawyers positively evaluate this step of the president but express concern that Isgandar Hamidov and others, whose names were more frequently mentioned among the possible prisoners to be pardoned, were not released.

Ali Mustafayev, Head of the Azerbaijani Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, is pleased that the efforts of the Azerbaijani citizens and local and international legal organisations, the Council of Europe in particular, yielded results. But Mustafayev thinks that the issue has not been settled fully and there is a serious need to release the remaining prisoners.

Gabil Rzayev, Head of the Committee for Protection of OMON- members' (special purpose police detachment) Rights, evaluates the amnesty decree as the result of the Council of Europe demands. According to him, even though some OMON members have been pardoned, a great number of them remain in prison.

Head of the Bureau for the Protection of Human Rights, Saida Gojamanli says that she evaluates this decree as partially positive because most of the persons considered political prisoners are still in prison. According to her, only three out of the 17-member list submitted by the Council of Europe expert Georges Clerfayt and 38 of the list her bureau submitted have been released. Gojamanli regrets that none of those arrested for the Sheki incidents has been pardoned. According to local observers, the pardons are seen as an attempt by Aliyev to allay international concerns about the country's human rights record that have hindered its entrance into multinational organizations.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Today's issues of "Hurriyyet", "Yeni Musavat," and "Yeni Azerbaijan" carry extracts from Armenian President Robert Kocharian's interview with AFP. The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" writes that Armenians fear the beginning of a new war.

The newspaper "Ekho" continues carrying materials about the assassination of Rovshan Aliev, deputy head of the investigation department on serious crimes. The newspaper writes that Rovshan Aliyev had known the killer.

The pro-government newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" refers to the March events that took place seven years ago claiming that the neutralisation of the armed group led by Rovshan Javadov in 1995 created conditions for strengthening of the state.

Hikmet Sabiroglu in an article entitled "Hostages" carried by "Azadlig" writes that there is a need for a major political amnesty in Azerbaijan. It brings no honor to President Heydar Aliyev to arrest persons who slapped a police officer in the face in Sheki, who had a cup of tea with Alikram Humbatov and who drove Rovshan Javadov's car. Killing heads of several families, imprisoning people for years for minor mistakes is tantamount to plotting a conspiracy against this state. According to the author, the government should give up regarding people as hostages in the bargain with the Council of Europe, the State Department and local lawyers.

The Azerbaijani press also focuses on the latest processes in the opposition camp.

According to the newspaper "Zerkalo," Musavat party leader Isa Gambar calls all his supporters to take to the streets to demand Heydar Aliev's resignation. In response to the question whether Ali Kerimli and Etibar Mammadov hinder him, Isa Gambar said that no one can impede the Musavat party. As for what the opposition will obtain by staging a protest action and demanding the president's resignation, Gambar said if the government tramples on the people's rights, then the society must fight against it.

Azad in a commentary "The opposition's meeting contest" carried by the newspaper "525" notes that the opposition papers have recently focused attention on the protest action separate wings of the opposition camp plan to stage in the near future. These articles include mutual accusations in the light of the euphoria engendered by the protest actions scheduled by the reformers wing of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party for 16 March and that of the United Opposition Movement for 23 March. According to the author, relations within the opposition camp are more strained than their ties with the government. The author stresses that the cease-fire in the opposition camp has been violated. But everything is OK in the governmental team.

Ali Kerimli, chairman of the reformers wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, in an interview with the newspaper "Ekho" mentions that the Musavat Party is impeding the unification of opposition. Referring to the view that the government is backing the reformers, Kerimli noted that only persons who are mentally ill would believe that. Kerimli says his party too demands that the government in office resign, and the APFP has selected tactics that will bring about the government's resignation. Kerimli called Ayaz Mutallibov's removal in 1992 a victory for the Azerbaijan People's Front.

"Three Caucasian republics- Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia have begun to intensively impact the economic policy of the region and the neighbouring countries," this statement has been taken from Emin Huseinzadeh's article "The agreement on Baku-Tiflis-Erzurum signed" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet." According to the author, Azerbaijan with a small internal market but major opportunities could plays the major role in the project, but despite its favourable geographical position, economic policy debars Azerbaijan from doing so yet.

Dunya Sakit in an article entitled "Do those in government prepare to escape?" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that according to the latest information, persons from different sections of the population and government are becoming concerned about the expected changes and are withdrawing their deposits from local banks, exchanging them for dollars and taking these funds out of the country. It is reported that some local banks have gone bankrupt for this reason and they may be closed within days.

Vagif Bayramov in the newspaper "Khalg" refers to the increase in industrial goods production in Azerbaijan. According to the author, as a result of the successful activity of the petrochemicals industry, they have obtained a 2.6 percent increase in comparison with the corresponding period of the last year.

According to the newspaper "525," the World Bank has allocated a $60 million credit to Azerbaijan.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)