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Azerbaijan Report: June 8, 2001

8 June 2001
Invalids and Families of Karabakh War Victims Stage Demo
On June 8 a group of invalids and families of Karabakh war victims staged a demonstration in front of the Baku City Council to protest moves by Baku Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov. They said after Abutalibov was appointed Baku Mayor in February their social situation deteriorated because he started to destroy shops belonging to them. These shops were the only source of income for invalids and families of Karabakh war victims. Although Abutalibov promised in February to create conditions for employment for invalids, he has not yet done so.

(Maarif Akbarov)

Situation of Imprisoned OMON Members Deteriorated
The Committee To Protect the Former Interior Ministry OMON Special Detachment held a round-table discussion on June 7 devoted to the situation of those persons arrested during the March 1995 events. Committee chairman Gabil Rzayev said that some of former OMON members being held in different prisons were transferred to the Gobustan strict prison without the slightest cause. He said the total number of imprisoned OMON members is 187, of whom 54 suffer from serious illnesses, while six of have died in prison and four after their release. He said that today the health of ten OMON members is deteriorating, but three of them were nonetheless transferred to the Gobustan Strict Prison.

Shahriyar Rasulov, who heads the prisoners' Protection Society, said that political prisoners are treated differently from other prisoners and that the situation of political prisoners is continuing to deteriorate.

Political prisoners' mothers who also took part in the round table discussion evaluated as effective the activity of political parties, parliament deputies and human rights committees. Igbal Agazadeh, who is a parliament deputy and head of the Civic Unity Party-2 (Civic Unity Party-1 is headed by ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov), reported that the Milli Mejlis has twice raised the problems of imprisoned OMON members. He added that on June 11 he and other human rights activists will visit the prisons where OMON members are being held.

(Maarif Akbarov)

Conflict Between Human Rights Organizations Over Number of Political Prisoners Continues
The head of the Prisoners' Protection Committee, Shahriyar Rasulov, told a press-conference on June 8 that 978 people have been arrested on political grounds since 1993. Three hundred of them were later released, while the rest are still being held in prison.

Earlier the Peace and Democracy Institute headed by Leyla Junusova prepared a list of political prisoners consisting of 262 names. The list of political prisoners prepared by the head of the Human Rights Department, Saida Godjamanli, contains 213 names of people regarded as political prisoners.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Conflict Between Karabakh War Invalids Society And Their Protection Committee
Karabakh War Invalids Society chairman Etimad Asadov criticized the activity of the Invalids' Protection Committee headed by Zardusht Alizadeh. He also criticized Sabir Rustamkhanli and Bakhtiyar Vakhabzadeh, who acted as mediators between the Karabakh War Invalids and the Azerbaijani authorities during the Karabakh War Invalids' hunger strike earlier this year. In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service, Etimad Asadov accused the mediators and the Protection Committee of making their social situation worse. He said the meeting which the Protection Committee scheduled for June 16 will not help secure the release of arrested Karabakh War Invalids but only serve to exacerbate still further their relations with the government.

Sabir Rustamkhanli, who is a parliament deputy and the head of the Civil Solidarity Party, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that the leadership of Karabakh War Invalids Society held secret negotiations with government. Some people used the invalids' hunger strike to further their political interests, Rustamkhanli said.

(Zhala Mutallimova)

Pressure On Private Broadcasting Companies Continues
On June 6 the authorities without the slightest cause suspended the activity of two regional broadcasting companies, "Gutb" and "Hayal," in Guba. "Gutb" broadcasting company chairman Mahir Orudgov told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that the government demands that the local raion administration be equally represented in the leadership of the company, meaning that 51 percent of shares in the company must be handed over to local authorities. He added that pressure on private broadcasting companies is continuing.

There are 14 broadcasting companies in Azerbaijan. Five of them are received throughout Baku and nine broadcast to different regions of Azerbaijan.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedly)

The Milli Mejlis again discussed on June 8 a draft law on state policy towards youth. Deputy Fazail Ibrakhinmli said the problems of youth cannot all be addressed in one law because there are so many of them (see "RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report," 11 May 2001). According to the new law, people between the age of18 and 30 are considered as youth.

(Zarkhanim Akhmedli )

'Frenk Alcapone' Arrested In Moscow
The head of the "Azerbaijan - 21th century" party, well-known businessman Fuzuli Mamedov who is best known by his nickname Frenk Alcapone, was arrested on June 4 in Moscow. Police found $2,000 in cash and 500 grams of heroin in his possession. Fuzuli Mamedov has repeatedly criticized the activities of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Moscow and of Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Russia, Ramiz Rizayev.

(Babek Bakir )

Press-Conference at Yeni Azerbaijan Party
During a press-conference at the headquarters of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party on June 8, SOCAR president Natig Aliyev criticized the most recent steps by Ashgabad. He said that Turkmenistan does not have any legal base to accuse Azerbaijan of developing the disputed oil fields. After the collapse of the USSR, Azerbaijan continues to develop the oil fields located in its national sector.

Natig Aliyev also said that the oil field Kapaz of which Turkmenistan claims its ownership belongs to Azerbaijan because it was discovered by Azerbaijani oil industry workers. At the same time, he recognized that Kapaz is disputed because it is partly located in Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian and partly in Turkmenistan's. He expressed the hope that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will manage to reach a consensus on this problem.

(Almaz Nasibova)

(Compiled & Translated by Samira Gaziyeva)

Analyzing Turkmenistan's recent moves, Rauf Mirgadirov writes in "Zerkalo" that judging by Ashgabad's present foreign policy one can say that Turkmenistan is the most independent state among CIS countries. It challenges even Russia. But Mirgadirov suggests that possibly Moscow itself is behind such behaviour but is keeping Turkmenistan as a reserve option, to be used should events in the region turn in the wrong direction. A commentary by Rustam published in "Yeni Azerbaijan," the newspaper of the ruling party, looks at the recently strengthening relations between the opposition Musavat Party and the Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP). The long silence among opposition has been recently broken again. Now their rivalry is moving to a higher level, as they compete for support from foreign countries. In fact, the ADP has still not lined up any serious foreign partner, while Musavat has succeeded with a "crusader" demarche on the Turkish political scene after the late Elchibey's death.

In an interview published by "525-gazeti," a member of the Political Council of the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party, Shadman Huseinov, who is also a founder of the Western Azerbaijan International Organization, doesn't rule out the possibility that the WAIO could merge with Erivan Birliyi, another recently founded organization which similarly comprises Western Azerbaijanis (Azerbaijanis from Armenia). Answering the question whether Erivan Birliyi was created to build a social base to support the leadership of Heydar Aliev, Huseinov said, that from1988 until now, Western Azerbaijanis played a significant role in all political developments and power changes in Azerbaijan. As Shadman Huseinov points out, it is quite possible that they are backing even the current leadership. So somebody from the government also could be interested in creating Erivan Birliyi.

The newspaper "Yeni Musavat" comments on the newly founded Western Azerbaijanis' organization. People of Amasya origin, (province located both in Armenia and Turkey) commonly known as members of the "Agababaly" tribe, have decided to name their new organization Dogu Anadolu Province (Eastern Anatolian Province). According to "Yeni Musavat," the group will be led by a member of the recently founded Erivan Government in Exile organization, a profesor of mathematics at Baku State University who was also born in Amasya, but whose name the paper fails to mention. The aim of the new organization is reportedly to join forces with the Akhiska Turks (Meskhetian Turks) and together lay claim to the Kars province of Turkey. The initiative group of the organization also argues that the Gyumri, Gukasyan and Akhalkalaki provinces of Armenia and Georgia should be annexed to Turkey and it plans to propose this to the Turkish Government once the organization has been legally registered in Baku.

The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," which is published by the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, also commented on creation of new societies representing Azerbaijanis from Armenia. The paper doubts that the creation of so many societies of the so-called "Western Azerbaijanis" (the term used to describe Azerbaijanis from Armenia) serves the purpose of uniting them. The paper believe that the new trend will not unite but divide the Western Azerbaijani community.

(Samira Gaziyeva and Rovshan Huseinov)