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Azerbaijan Report: July 30, 2002

30 July 2002
Security Ministry Accuses Former President Of Coup Attempt
Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry has completed an investigation into an alleged plot by supporters of Ayaz Mutallibov to bring the former president back to power in a coup, the ministry's press office announced on 26 July. A ministry press secretary said the case has now been sent to court. A ministry statement charged that the Public Regional Cultural-Education Fund "For the Progress of Azerbaijan" in Moscow, which is headed by Mutallibov, has become a center of provocation against Azerbaijan. Representatives of the parties accused in the ministry indictment all denied the charges.

Mutallibov himself is charged with planning a coup d'etat in September or October 2001. According to the ministry, the plan was to organize meetings and demonstrations against the authorities, and then for armed groups to occupy state and administrative buildings. The last stage of the plan was to bring Mutallibov and his supporters to power on 18 October. The ministry charges that Mutallibov, who now lives in Moscow, even held several meetings with the heads of political organizations in Azerbaijan such as the Civil Unity Party, the Committee to Protect Mutallibov's Rights, the Unit Party and the Union of Baku and Villages.

Civil Unity Party head Sabir Hajiev said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that the party never intended to come to power by illegal means and that Mutallibov always acts within the legal framework. Hajiev added that he gave evidence on the alleged coup to the National Security Ministry as far back as last year, and that Mutallibov expressed his view on the charges last October when five party activists were arrested.

Hajiev rejected reports that the Kremlin is going to expel Mutallibov from Russia and that the former president has visited Iran. Hajiev said that Mutallibov is now resting in Sochi, a seaside resort in the south of Russia. Hajiev called the reports about Mutallibov's visit to Iran "rumors."

Haji Jebrail, the head of the Union of Baku and Villages, also dismissed the charges brought against the organization. According to him, the union has never been politicized. If the security ministry had information about an alleged coup d'etat then why did it not take appropriate measures before now, he asked. The delay shows that the authorities want to link the party with "invented" crimes, but they will not succeed, Jebrail said. He argued that the ministry statement is intended to frighten the populations of villages around Baku, who live in difficult social conditions.

Tahir Kerimli, the head of the Union Party, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that neither members of the Union Party nor the Union of Baku and Villages have been involved in the investigation. He said that since the current leadership came to power it has used "artificial shows" to keep the people in thrall.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Prosecutor General Promises Resolution to Proceedings Against Press

Azerbaijan's prosecutor general has promised to investigate ongoing prosecutions against journalists, following a meeting with the head of an organization dedicated to protecting members of the press. Some of the cases have been pending for several years, with no apparent progress.

Eflatun Amashov, the head of the "Ruh" Committee to defend journalists, met Chief Prosecutor Zahid Garalov on 26 July to discuss the issue of journalists against whom legal action had been brought. Amashov said that he gave the chief prosecutor a list of 15 accused journalists. Garalov promised to take appropriate measures after a detailed investigation.

The discussion followed a meeting between President Heydar Aliyev and members of the Baku Press Club on 22 July, Azerbaijan's National Press Day. "Ruh" noted at that meeting that media representatives against whom legal proceedings have been brought are anxious about their cases, some of which date back to 1998. In response, the president said that journalists are attempting to benefit from the legal proceedings against them by appealing to international organizations, which law-enforcement bodies should take into consideration.

Amashov said he is sure that the proceedings brought against journalists will be closed. He said that most of the cases were the result of a legal campaign by officials against the press after the 1998 presidential elections. At that time many high-ranking officials brought suits against journalists, asking courts to "protect their honor and dignity." Newspapers were fined and the authors of the articles were brought to trial.

Amashov said he and Garalov also discussed the issue of media representatives who are subjected to pressure in the course of their work. Some 40 journalists were beaten or insulted last year, he said. Although the number of such incidents has decreased slightly this year, the level of pressure on journalists is still high, Amashov said.

(Natig Zeinalli)

Army Hit By More Sunstroke Deaths
A soldier of the Azerbaijan National Army died of sunstroke on 27 July, bringing the total number of deaths this summer to eight. Ministry of Defense spokesman Ramiz Melikov confirmed the latest death in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service.

According to unofficial reports more than 60 soldiers are being treated for sunstroke in the central clinical hospital at present. Melikov did not deny that report, saying only that he does not know the exact number of soldiers in the hospital diagnosed with sunstroke. He said officials are taking appropriate measures to prevent such incidents in the future.

Doctor and military expert Azad Isazade pointed out that sunstroke does not happen suddenly. In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, he said that military exercises are being held in the hot sun so often that sunstroke among the soldiers has become an epidemic. He pointed out that in southern countries during hot seasons, exercises are stopped or held in suitable morning or evening times as a rule. The recent deaths also indicate that the Azeri soldier does not drink a sufficient amount of water and does not have proper instructions about what to do in hot weather.

Psychologist Azer Garachenli said that soldiers who die of sunstroke suffer from thirst and lack of shade. He said he realizes that exercises are intended to develop strength of character and endurance in soldiers, but that must not lead to sickness or death. According to Garachenli, the authorities must account for the deaths. The authorities have humiliated themselves as well as the state, he said. Garachenli argues that if the government does not care for the citizens it does not have the right to demand anything from them. If the authorities do not take care of soldiers in peacetime, they cannot show the opposite attitude in wartime.

(Babek Bekir)

Press attention centers on the scandal around former President Ayaz Mutallibov. For example, according to the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo," Mutallibov is moving closer to the opposition parties to enlist their support.

The independent newspaper "525" reports the Haji Abdul, the head of the "Tovbe" religious society, said that Mutallibov has tried to stage a coup d'etat several times.

The pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" in an article entitled "A woman who earns her living from treason" criticizes Leila Yunus, the director of the non-governmental Institute for Peace and Democracy, which protects national minorities. The article says that she manipulates the issue for her own interests.

The pro-governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" in an article entitled "Opposition leaders driving Mercedes have still not gotten off Gaz-24 in the political world" writes that ordinary members of the opposition consider the high living standard of the chairmen of their parties to be treason against them.

An author writing only as Mejidli in an article entitled "Inhabitants of Nardaran are going to renew protests tomorrow" in the newspaper "Zerkalo" writes that arrests of residents of the village near Baku continues. Hajiaga Nuriev, a representative of the Islamic Party, said in an interview with the newspaper that Mirzaga Movlumov, 30, was arrested on 27 July. All through that night his relatives were looking for him and even thought that he had been killed. But later it turned out that Movlumov was being held in a police station. The author considers it possible that he was detained solely for interrogation. According to Mejidli, the inhabitants of the village, which was the scene of a violent confrontation between residents and the police last month, expected much more from the extraordinary meeting of parliament held on 29 July. The inhabitants hoped that a group of deputies would be formed to help them solve their problems, but that did not happen. As a result the villagers are going to hold a protest on Nardaran's Imam Hussein Square on 31 July.

Aidin Muzeffer in an article entitled "Religious missionaries stepping back" in the newspaper "525" writes that the State Committee for Relations with Religious Organizations has done much work during the last year to limit the activities of religious missionaries. The Committee's research center, which is developing an official state religious policy, has strengthened its activities in order to protect the people, especially youth, from foreign religious influence. Even before it was officially established the center analyzed the activities of foreign missionary organizations and revealed their destructive effect, the author writes. He adds that the work that has been done and measures that have been taken are now producing positive results. The Azerbaijani people are getting rid of the influence of missionaries who propagandize Christianity, Wahhabism and other religious currents in the country.

Rahib Kazimli in a comment entitled "Our army in grip of military mafia" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the Azerbaijani people are facing a strange problem. Following eight deaths from sunstroke in the army this summer, people do not believe that their sons will return home alive from military service. The evidence of the last few years shows that the Azerbaijani soldier has lost his immunity against cold, dysentery, sunstroke and other illnesses, Kazimli writes. The official attitude to the death of the soldiers from sunstroke is regrettable. Instead of punishing the commanders who are responsible for the casualties in peacetime, the leadership is temporizing. Kazimli points out that parents are now looking for methods to protect the lives of their sons and are therefore attempting to release them from military service.

Elchin Yusifoglu in an article entitled "Oriental despotism" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" writes that the common feature uniting Azerbaijan and Iran is the presence of despotism in both countries. At present Azerbaijan and Iran need each other because of the despotism in each country. Some people who are subjected to pressure by Aliev's regime appeal to Iran, while some Iranians who are dissatisfied with the present regime in Tehran have to emigrate to Azerbaijan. Political prisoners, in their turn, represent a danger to the leaderships in these countries. President Aliyev during his meeting with Iranian Security Minister Ali Yunesi last week noted that cooperation between the two countries is directed against persons and tendencies that are attempting to worsen the relationship between Baku and Tehran. Yusifoglu says the president was referring to immigrants living in both countries and that his approach is in the interests of Tehran. The author writes that Baku and Tehran's intention to fight against individuals emanates from the similar nature of the two governments. But the despot who gives the order to crush in Iran is Persian. This is a distinctive feature. But in all cases the victims of the despotism are Azeris, and that is a common feature.

Rovshan Hajiev in a comment entitled "Leadership said its word" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" writes that the authorities have not taken into account the opposition's proposals regarding the upcoming constitutional referendum on 24 August. They did their best to provoke confrontation with the opposition parties. President Aliyev succeeded in calling an extraordinary session of parliament to enlist the support of the deputies. It is now the opposition parties' turn, Hajiev writes, and they have no means to prevent the government from holding the referendum.

Isa Gambar, chairman of the opposition Musavat Party, says in an interview with the independent newspaper "Tezadlar" that if the people do not accept the existing opposition parties the people must create a new force. Touching on the reasons for low citizen turnout at opposition protests this spring, Gambar says that the people are afraid of police violence and persecution. This factor of course exerts an influence on the number of demonstrators, he says. But according to him the decisive factor in demonstrations is not the number of demonstrators but the purpose of such protests.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)