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Azerbaijan Report: November 11, 2002

11 November 2002
Government Officials Sue Newspaper
Former State Property Minister Nadir Nasibov and his first deputy Barat Nuriev have brought a legal action against the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" claiming the paper has insulted their honor and dignity. The complainants state that the "Yeni Musavat" articles covering the legal suits connected to Czech businessman Victor Kozeny, are full of false and slanderous allegations.

Esmira Huseinova, the lawyer for Nasibov and Nuriev, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that her clients demand that the court find the newspaper guilty and ban its activity for three years. Moreover, the complainants also want to bring a legal suit directly against the authors of the articles. Huseinova said that her clients are not interested in the newspaper printing a retraction as a means of settling the controversy. She said that after the article was printed, two "Yeni Musavat" corespondents met with Nuriev to learn his opinion about the allegations related the lawsuit. During the meeting, Nuriev denied all the allegations. But the newspaper did not run his comments. "If the correspondents had not met with Nuriev, the complainants would perhaps have been satisfied with a retraction," Huseinova said. But it is now too late to discuss it, she added.

On 5 November the editorial staff of "Yeni Musavat" held a meeting with lawyers and editors of other newspapers. Rauf Arifoglu, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, told RFE/RL that at present "Yeni Musavat" faces two legal actions--one brought by the Ministry of Defense and that of Nasibov and Nuriev. The ministry is suing for $300 million in damages, while Nasibov and Nuriev want the newspaper to be shut down for three years. Arifoglu said that the participants of the meeting decided that the paper would not back down, and they created a new group for gathering new information and facts. He added that the problem would be settled through negotiations.

Asked why the newspaper did not publish Nuriev's comments, Arifoglu explained it was because of Nuriev's rude treatment of the correspondents. Arifoglu added that the authors even wanted to write an article criticizing Nuriev, but he convinced them not to do so.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Turkish Elections to Bring Even Closer Azeri-Turk Relations, Observers Say
The 3 November parliamentary elections in Turkey removed from government most of the politicians responsible for creating relations with Azerbaijan. However, most local observers reject the claims that the change may lead Ankara to reconsider its Caucasian foreign policy.

Gabil Huseinli, the deputy chairman of the Musavat Party, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that governments in Turkey can change, but the country's foreign policy is determined by the president and National Security Council. Huseinli noted that Teyyip Erdogan, the leader of victorious Justice and Development Party (AKP), and his command are known as politicians who keep their word. Though the AKP has an Islamic history, it is a far-right nationalist organization.

Huseinli said that when he lived in Turkey he had meetings with some of the closest advisers to Erdogan. The AKP activists are well disposed toward Azerbaijan, he added. Huseinli expressed the hope that the new Turkish government under the AKP power will establish more honest and practical relations with Azerbaijan.

Parliament deputy Ismail Omerov agrees that the Turkish election results will not affect the relations between the two countries. In fact, he says the relationship between Baku and Ankara will strengthen.

The leadership of the Azerbaijani Islamic Party, which was the first to send a congratulation letter to the AKP, also claims that Erdogan and his party's leadership hold friendly feelings toward Azerbaijan. Haji Hajiaga Nuriev, the deputy chairman of the Islamic Party, told RFE/RL that he paid a visit to Istanbul at the invitation of Erdogan, when he was still mayor of Istanbul. Nuriev suggested that the new Turkish government will establish even closer ties with Azerbaijan.

(Natig Zeinalli)

Russia's Crackdown on Caucasians Could Impact Azerbaijan Economy
After the 22 October hostage incident in Moscow the attitude toward Caucasians, in particular Azerbaijanis, in Russia has worsened. At the beginning of November the Moscow OMON (Special Assignment Police) used force against some 120 Azerbaijani merchants working at a bazaar. The police killed one of them. According to unofficial information, the Azerbaijan government is expected to release a note of protest against the incident.

Meanwhile, officials point out that the Azerbaijani government has instructed the Azerbaijani embassy in Moscow to take necessary measures. An investigation into the incident is continuing, according to information from the embassy. Fifteen injured Azerbaijanis have undergone a forensic examination in Russia. But embassy second secretary Tamella Ahmedova said in an interview with a local newspaper that the embassy will not wait for the results of the examination. Ahmedova added that the Russian authorities demand proof that OMON forces beat Azerbaijanis. "We will do our best" to draw the world's attention to the incident, she said. The ongoing violence toward Azerbaijanis in Moscow has resulted in fewer Azerbaijanis willing to conduct trade or look for work in Russia because of the dangers of living there.

Many citizens have said that because of the worsening attitude toward Azerbaijanis in Moscow, the tension is impossible to live with. According to government figures, more than 2 million Azerbaijanis live in Russia. Half a million of them are citizens of Russian Federation.

Mais Seferli, the chairman of the Yurtdash (Compatriot) Party said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that the Moscow authorities have been implementing a policy of discrimination against Azerbaijanis for a long time. Seferli noted that anti-Azerbaijani sentiment makes the life of Russian Azerbaijanis unbearable. But their return to Azerbaijan would cause huge social problems. "These people provide bread to half of the population of Azerbaijan," he said.

Human rights activist Chingiz Ganizade told RFE/RL that Azerbaijani human rights organizations have appealed to the Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan. The local organizations will also inform international institutions of the occurrence. Moreover, Azerbaijani human rights activists maintain close contact with their Russian colleagues. Ganizade called on the Azerbaijani government to intervene in the process, otherwise, he said, a mass flow of Azerbaijanis from Russia would be unavoidable.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Most local newspapers ran articles and commentaries on President Heydar Aliev's visit to Sheki. According to the official newspaper "Azerbaycan," the visit of the head of state coincides with a period of economic development in the region.

An author writing only as Aranli in the article "Aliev's visit to Sheki" in the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman" notes that it is not the first appearance of the president among the people. But since he is always surrounded by police and armed guards, people are not able to approach to him and tell him about their problems, Aranli writes. As for presidential visits to Azerbaijani regions, their programs are prepared some days before the visit, just like the programs of foreign visits. "How will Sheki meet Aliev?" the author asks. Everyone still remembers how the president dealt with the people of Sheki in 2000, when they demanded a solution to their social problems.

The independent Russian-language newspaper "Ekho" cites the Turan News Agency quoting Ali Hasanov, chief of the Political and Social Department of the Presidential Administration, saying that no pardon decree is expected to be signed on 12 November, Constitution Day or on the Day of National Revival, 17 November.

Under the headline "Rich Armenians allocate a million dollars for information against Azerbaijan," the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" writes that the purpose of the campaign is to disprove charges of Armenian terrorism.

The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" published an article entitled "The government wants to create differences among people from Nagorno-Karabakh," which argues that even President Heydar Aliyev has given special instructions to officials regarding it.

The opposition newspaper "Azadlig" writes that the government has stopped searching for the victims of the "Mercury-2" ferry which sank in the Caspian on 22 October. The fact that the searches have produced no survivors attests to this, the newspaper writes.

Galib Arif, in an article entitled "Coming and going away from policy," in the official newspaper "Khalg," talks about Turkish politicians who lost the 3 November parliamentary elections and compares them with the opposition leaders of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani opposition politicians have no democratic culture, the author concludes.

Parliament deputy and corresponding member of the Azerbaijan National Academy Nizami Jafarov said in an interview with the newspaper "Azerbaycan" that Azerbaijani literature is now in the midst of a serious crisis. First of all, literature has turned into nationwide business. Everybody, who takes pen to hand, considers himself to be a writer. Such a situation has reduced the intellectual level of literature. In order to prevent this lowering of standards, literary criticism should be encouraged, Jafarov said.

Sakit Allahverdiev, the chairman of the Volgograd regional branch of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress, said in an interview with the independent newspaper "525" that in the past the Azerbaijani Diaspora in Volgograd was uncoordinated and served the interests of separate people. But today, those interested in strengthening the independence of Azerbaijan and Russian-Azerbaijani relations, have gathered together and have succeeded in solving existing problems. "Our organization has done much work since its establishment," Allahverdiev noted, adding that most Azerbaijanis in Russia are engaged in commerce. In order to protect their rights, the organization has established close relations with the law-enforcement and leadership bodies of the Volgograd region. In addition, he said, the organization visits low-income Russian families and boarding schools and helps young Azerbaijanis to get an education.

Famil Ahmedoglu in the article "The process of collapse of the opposition parties is accelerating" in the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" points out that despite numerous contradictions within the opposition camp, their leaders are now attempting to determine a common candidate for the 2003 presidential elections. Although these parties note that they have achieved the named objective, the present social and political situation in Azerbaijan shows that their claims do not correspond to reality.

Elkhan Gudretoglu in an article entitled "Aliev's 250 worth present to population" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" comments on the president's speech at the ceremony devoted to the jubilee of the Baku metro and notes that the president exaggerated some aspects of the metro's activity. For example, the head of state claimed that fares in the Baku metro are much lower than in other countries. The president characterized this as "a great concession" to the population, adding that the government has allocated $7 million from the budget to keep fares at the same level. But the question remains: Whom should the state budget serve? What is more interesting is that the president has determined the level of metro fares. The president pointed out that while the metro management has repeatedly raised the issue of raising fares, he withheld his consent. Undoubtedly, the president is forced to take such a step, taking into account the hard living standard of the population. Raising fares would increase social discontent of the population, Gudretoglu concludes.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)