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Azerbaijan Report: June 11, 2002

11 June 2002
Human Rights Watch Criticizes Azerbaijani Government Over Nardaran
Human Rights Watch has called for an independent investigation into the incidents that took place in the village of Nardaran near Baku on 3-4 June, when police opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least two. In a letter to Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev, Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the organization's department for Europe and Asia, says that the Azerbaijani government has a history of responding to popular protests with "beatings, detentions and show trials." But opening fire on protesters is "a new low," Andersen says. According to her, the government should establish an independent investigation into the incident, especially the use of lethal force. She says that the Aliyev government must learn to "engage constructively with peaceful protest." Andersen's letter also quotes local reports that claim there are wounded who cannot leave the village for the fear of being arrested.

According to Azerbaijani lawyer Saida Gojamanli, Human Rights Watch has issued a number of statements on human rights in Azerbaijan and the latest is the harshest one. The appeal is also specific because it stresses the alleged violation of human rights during a protest. According to Gojamanli, international organizations will consequently pay increased attention to Azerbaijan.

Gojamanli says the president must meet Nardaran residents urgently and expressed regret that such a meeting has not taken place so far.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Baku Police Chief Accuses Opposition Over Nardaran
Lieutenant-General Maharram Aliev, head of the Baku City Central Police Department, told the government newspaper "Azerbaijan" that the Nardaran incident is the latest example of the opposition's anti-constitutional action against the government. According to him, opposition parties including the Musavat, Democratic, People's Front, Islamic, Vahdat, Social-Democratic and other parties played a particular role in the incident, and the heads of those parties bear not only a moral responsibility but also that of participating in a crime against the state. But the parties that Aliyev names in the interview resolutely reject the allegations, claiming that the current government bears moral and legal responsibility for the clashes.

Serdar Jelaloglu, secretary-general of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, says that the government is exerting pressure on Maharram Aliyev and his family and that the police chief made his accusations against the opposition in order to reduce this pressure. Thus he wants to gain points by shifting the government's responsibility on to other parties. According to Jelaloglu, the incidents in Nardaran are the logical result of the current government's policies, and they are not surprising, given that the government has previously suppressed bloody uprisings in the city of Ganja and the towns of Nehram and Gobustan.

Mehman Javadoglu, deputy head of the Musavat party for press issues, thinks that Chief Aliyev wants to lay the blame on the political opposition. It is precisely wrong line to take, he argues, saying that not the opposition but the government is responsible for the incident.

Tahir Kerimli, chairman of the Vahdat Party, says that the residents of Nardaran committed no crime. According to Kerimli, government bodies exerted pressure on the residents and shot them for demanding their social rights.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Islamic Party Head Arrested After Nardaran Clash
On 10 June the head of the opposition Islamic Party, Haji Alikram Aliev, was arrested and taken to the Interior Ministry's Organized Crime Department. According to Rovshan Ahmedov, the party�s deputy chairman for political affairs, on 9 June Aliyev went to see his daughter, who lives in Baku's ninth microdistrict, and to have a medical examination. The next morning he was arrested. Ahmedov says the police did not give any reasons for the arrest. He says that a member of party's Supreme Council, Mirmehdi Daraferin, who went to the Organized Crime Department to learn the reasons for the arrest, was also detained for unknown reasons.

According to Ahmedov, the Organized Crime Department later told party activists that the party officials had been arrested because of the Nardaran incidents. Ahmedov rejects any connection between the Islamic Party and the confrontation in Nardaran and objects to politicizing the incident. At the same time he notes that the Islamic Party said from the beginning that the incident was the result of the government's failure to meet social demands that have been made by the people of Nardaran for more than a year. He argues that the effort to link the Nardaran incidents with the Islamic Party is an attempt to hide the truth.

As for the claim that Aliyev was in the village during the incidents, Ahmedov says that even though Haji Alikram Aliyev is a native of Nardaran, he was in the party's headquarters, not in the village, during the confrontation and hence he was not aware of the events. After the bloody incidents ended he and other representatives of the party visited the relatives of the people who were killed. Ahmedov also notes that the party has contacted local and international human rights organizations to stop what he called the government's repressive steps against the Islamic Party.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijani Journalists Demand PKK Be Declared A Terrorist Organization
A group of about 50 journalists staged a sanctioned protest on 11 June in front of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party headquarters to demand that the Kurdish nationalist PKK be labelled a terrorist organization. The demonstration, which was organized by the Editors' Union, also called for the repeal of court rulings fining some newspapers and journalists that have carried articles about the PKK. In opening remarks, Ganimat Zahidov, head of the "Azad Soz" (Free Word) Journalists' Union, said the journalists were staging the protest in front of YAP headquarters because the party is in power and holds the majority of votes in parliament. Therefore, he said, protests against "terror organizations" in the country should be held at this address. He argued that Azerbaijan must launch discussions over the PKK at the highest level and legal bodies must rule on the status of the organization.

The demonstration comes amid tension in Baku over the PKK. The government and the opposition Musavat party have accused each other of secretly supporting the Kurdish organization. Each party denies the other's allegation.

Azer Hesret, chairman of the Journalists' Trades Union, described the pressure on newspapers and journalists raising the PKK issue. He said the independent newspaper "Tezadlar" has detected evidence of PKK influence in the northeastern city of Shamakhi and therefore became the target of attacks by state officials and courts.

Some observers say another reason for the demonstration's being held now is that journalists are trying to soften the government's position on another issue, its controversial plan to make loans available to a limited number of newspapers. The journalists may have hoped to add to existing pressure on government officials due to last week's violent confrontation in the village of Nardaran.

(Babek Bekir)

In an article entitled "Azerbaijan's position has put it into a deadlock" in the 11 June issue of the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman," T. Aranli comments on President Heydar Aliev's 9 June working visit to St. Petersburg and concludes that he has returned empty-handed. The author writes that the early discussions among Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan over the status of the Caspian Sea resulted in the signing of a relevant agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan. It was expected that Russia and Azerbaijan would sign such an agreement during Aliev's visit to St. Petersburg. Observers also expected the Russian firm LUKoil to announce whether or not it would take part in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project. According to the author, no definite document was signed on this or any other issue. The author claims that this visit of the Azerbaijani president was like a tourist's. The author concludes that gaps in the Azerbaijani government's economic and political course are gradually being revealed and they show that the government policy is wrong and lacking perspective.

The 11 June issue of the government newspaper "Khalg" carries a commentary entitled "The time is becoming clearer" devoted to the incidents of June 1993, when an abortive coup attempt led to the fall of the government of Abulfez Elchibey and Heydar Aliev's taking power. According to the article, the people were not backing the Elchibey government, and therefore the only way out of the crisis was for him to go.

In an article entitled "Azerbaijan after salvation" carried in the 11 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Gabil Abbasoglu writes that the majority of the population does not understand the essence of the 15 June Salvation Day holiday. Heydar Aliyev was elected chairman of the Azerbaijani parliament nine years ago on 15 June, and some government officials claim this date was the beginning of Aliev's returning to power and the country's salvation. The author lists some of the incidents that took place in the country after 15 June 1993: " Six Azerbaijani districts are under Armenian occupation. We have been 'saved' from having these six districts after salvation. Society has been split along both political and regional lines. Repression and massive arrests started." The author argues that after Salvation Day, corruption and bribery, "the most dangerous crimes for the country's present and future," prospered. The author concludes that "We need a Salvation Day in order to be saved from this situation."

In a commentary entitled "The work to be done" carried in the 11 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," Hikmet Sabiroglu writes that the events of June 1993 are exaggerated in the press every year, but nothing new is expressed. According to him, regardless of what different people say, the historical truth is that national democratic forces could not retain power, and as a result Heydar Aliyev took control. According to the author, nobody called Aliyev to power and nobody gave him power. The author claims that Aliyev came to power with the help of inadmissible methods, by means of his unprecedented ability to direct processes in his favor. The author notes in conclusion that it is high time to open a new page in the nation's history. This is the work to be done, he says.

In a commentary entitled "Political tension rises in the Caucasian countries" carried in the 11 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," an author signing himself only Rasim writes that certain tension has recently been observed in the internal political life of the South Caucasus countries. The possibility of governmental change in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia seems real. For instance, the recent local elections in Georgia have seriously affected the country's political life and become an issue discussed by leading politicians. According to the author, the internal political situation is also unstable in Armenia. The local opposition demands President Robert Kocharian's resignation now that the presidential election campaign has begun. The author argues that the internal political situation is not stable in Azerbaijan either, claiming that the political environment and "dictatorial regime" the government has established in the country have made the opposition schedule massive protests. But government forces prevented those actions from taking place by violent methods, and thus an unstable situation is emerging in the country.

In an interview with the 11 June issue of the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," political scientist Vafa Guluzade says Azerbaijan leaves Armenia behind in all spheres. According to him, the situation has worsened in Armenia because the Armenians did not select the proper course from the very beginning. Guluzade says that pressure on Armenia has produced no results yet. According to Guluzade, the Council of Europe can positively affect the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Even though the talks are at a dead end now, there are factors in Azerbaijan's favor, he says.

Azerbaijani newspapers are still focusing on last week's Nardaran incidents, as well as the potential for unrest in other villages around Baku. In an interview with the 11 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," Nasir Aghayev, the former chairman of the Union of Baku and Villages, warns of serious social tension in the village of Buzovna.

The 11 June issue of the independent newspaper "Tezadlar" carries an interview with Musavat leader Isa Gambar, who comments on the Nardaran incidents. According to Gambar, political forces and social organizations must gather together and make the government give up violence. Gambar claims that a tragedy has taken place. The matter must be brought to a close, and charges must be brought against the guilty parties who opened fire on the people. Gambar says the social problems of the village must be settled.

According to the 11 June issue of the independent newspaper "Echo," Haji Alikram Aliev, the leader of the Islamic Party, and Mirmehdi Darafar, chairman of the party's supreme assembly, were detained. It is assumed that they were arrested in connection with the Nardaran incidents.

The 11 June issue of the independent newspaper "Zerkalo" claims that a number of non-governmental organizations working in Azerbaijan are dissatisfied with parliament's passage of an amendment to the Law on Grants which would require grants to be registered with the government. President Aliyev has not yet signed the law.

The 11 June issue of the independent newspaper "Ekho" reports that a baby with four legs was born in the Lokbatan district of Baku.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)