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Azerbaijan Report: June 12, 2001

12 June 2001
Note To Readers:
"RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report" on 8 June 2001 erroneously cited RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondents in Yerevan as confirming statements contained in a report by Steve Sverdlow concerning discrimination against the small Jewish minority in Nagorno-Karabakh. RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau has not confirmed the veracity of those claims.

The 'Chechen Problem' In Azerbaijan
Criminal events in Azerbaijan are partially connected with the Chechens. Chechen refugees began to settle in Azerbaijan during the first war between Russia and Chechnya. After beginning the second Chechen war in 1999, the number of Chechens coming to live in Azerbaijan increased. There were no problems with Chechens in Azerbaijan until the end of 2000. After Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Azerbaijan in January 2001 and a thaw in Russian-Azerbaijani relations began, official Baku changed its policy towards the Chechens. In February 2001, the Azerbaijan authorities extradited seven Chechen criminals to Russia.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service, political analyst Gabil Huseynli said with reference to the recent murders committed by Chechens in Azerbaijan that Azerbaijan now faces a "Chechen problem." As a result of contradictions within the leadership of the Chechen national movement, some forces in Chechnya no longer acknowledge any authority. Huseynli suggested that some Chechens in Azerbaijan have connections with criminal elements. At the same time, he does not rule out that the recent events are linked with the "Russian factor."

Huseynli added that the Azerbaijani leadership's policy towards Chechen refugees in Azerbaijan is not consistent. Earlier the government provided subsidies to help Chechens to open businesses and create capital in Azerbaijan, but after Putin's visit to Azerbaijan official policy changed to become closer to that of Russia.

Politologist Khaladdin Ibrahimli considers the reasons for such incidents is connected with efforts by some "third force" which is interested in deteriorating relations between the Azerbaijani and Chechen peoples. The Chechens themselves are not interested in alienating the Azerbaijanis. Those Chechens who committed murders in Azerbaijan are working for the secret services of Russia and other countries, Ibrahimli said.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Recent Crimes Threaten Stability
The shooting incidents over the last days involving the police are evaluated in the press as a violation of political and public stability in the country. Commenting on the deteriorating criminal situation in Azerbaijan, Turan information agency expert Hassan Guliev linked the most recent murders of police officers with corruption within some oligarchic groups in the country. The structural reforms carried out by President Heidar Aliyev have aggravated the struggle between these groups. On the other hand, the cleaning-up operations by Baku Mayor Abutalibov have increased the number of unemployed in Azerbaijan. Guliev added that corruption is the reason for the creation of the vast army of police. Although there are hundreds of thousands of police in Azerbaijan, citizens do not believe the police are able to ensure their security. But Hassan Guliev thinks it is too early to speak about the violation of stability in Azerbaijan. At the same time, the recent incidents pose a serious threat to political and public stability in the country.

The deputy executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, Mubariz Gurbanli, does not think that the recent criminal incidents create a threat to stability in Azerbaijan. He accused some unnamed forces of attempting to give a political coloring to routine crimes.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Seleznev's Statement Termed Irresponsible
Azerbaijani media quote Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev as saying during his recent visit to Armenia that Upper Karabakh "as a part of Armenia" should join the Russia-Belarus Union. Political analyst Rasim Musabekov in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service evaluated as irresponsible the statement attributed to Seleznev, which he said contradicts Moscow's position on the Karabakh issue. Such remarks negatively effect the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia. According to Musabekov, Seleznev's statement demonstrates his political inexperience.

Armenian National Television on 7 June quoted Seleznev as saying, "I do not see an independent Nagorno-Karabakh in the Russia-Belarus Union."

(Zhala Mutallimova)

Police Force Karabakh Invalids to Leave Their Office
Firudin Mammedov, deputy chairman of the Karabakh War Invalids Society, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service on 11 June that police are attempting to force the invalids to leave their office on the order of Baku Police Department Chief Maherram Aliev. It is the third attempt by the authorities to evict the Karabakh invalids from their headquarters.

(Zhala Mutallimova)

Conflict Over Number of Political Prisoners Continues
"After Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe the government has not only changed its relation towards political prisoners but strengthened the pressure on persons imprisoned on political grounds," Ulvi Hakimov, who is National Democratic Fund president and deputy chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, told a press conference on 12 June. APFP member Yusif Aliev, who suffered from tuberculosis, died in prison number 3 early in June because the necessary conditions for his treatment in prison did not exist. Hakimov said that today the number of imprisoned APFP members is 39, of whom eleven need advanced medical treatment. He added that during 1993-2000, 137 members of the APFP were imprisoned and only eight of them were released under the president's amnesty. As for the number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Ulvi Hakimov thinks there are about 70 people in that category. He criticized some human rights activists who consider such persons as Alikram Humbatov, Suret Huseinov, Rahim Gaziyev and members of the "Sadval" Lezgin separatist organization as political prisoners. According to him, they are criminals.

Mamed Zeynalov, who is president of the Prisoners Aid Fund, said that imprisoned members of the former Interior Ministry OMON Special Detachment should not be regarded as political prisoners.

(Babek Bakir)

The Milli Mejlis on 12 June condemned the statement on Nagorno-Karabakh allegedly made by Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev during his visit to Armenia. Samed Seidov, who is the head of the External Relation Commissions, appraised as an "absurdity" the statement attributed to Seleznev that Karabakh could join the Russia-Belarus Union. No official has right to make such remarks which negatively influence Azerbaijani-Russian relations, Seidov said, calling on the Milli Mejlis to issue a condemnation of Seleznev's statement.

Milli Mejlis speaker Murtuz Aleskerov recalled Seleznev's earlier proposal that Karabakh be joined to Russia and said that his statement does not reflect the Russian government's position on the Karabakh conflict.

The Milli Mejlis confirmed the appointment of former Economy Minister Namig Nasrullayev as chairman of the Account Chamber. After creating the Account Chamber, the Milli Mejlis will have the opportunity to control the budget.

The Milli Mejlis also ratified the agreement between SOCAR and Russia's Lukoil on developing the Zikh and Hovsan oil fields. SOCAR President Natig Aliyev reported that the developing of those oil fields requires $225 million, which is why Azerbaijan is compelled to sign contracts with foreign companies as it does not have the financial means to do so on its own. That agreement is the fourth signed between Azerbaijan and a Russian oil company on developing its Caspian oil fields, Natik Aliyev added.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

(Compiled & Translated by Samira Gaziyeva)

The latest killings of policemen in Azerbaijan is the main subject of commentaries in local press. The newspaper "Alternativ" voices the suspicion that "wahhabis and the international drug mafia are behind the latest terror acts in Azerbaijan." The paper comments that the Wahhabi ideology is imported to Azerbaijan through Chechnya and Daghestan and could create serious confrontations between Muslims in Azerbaijan. The Wahhabis may intend to transfer their power center from Chechnya and Daghestan to Azerbaijan in order to strengthen their position here and then dictate their influence on the government, the paper comments. "Alternativ" interprets the latest killings of policemen as a "warning to Azerbaijani government." The paper suspects that there could be a link between Wahhabis and the international drug mafia operating in Azerbaijan.

The paper "Tezadlar," which has close links to Mahir Djavadov, one of the leaders of the 1995 coup attempt in Baku, who is currently in exile in Iran, expressed a different view of the latest killings in Azerbaijan. The paper compares the present crime situation in Azerbaijan with the situation on 1937. "It seems that something is coming to an end," the paper writes, "It is like the situation before the earthquake." According to the paper, "a political earthquake in Azerbaijan is close." The paper "Ulus," which has links to the opposition Azerbaijan Democratic Party headed by former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev, suggests that the latest increase in killings of policemen shows that the "country is getting out of control."

"Foreign TV channels have occupied the air waves of Azerbaijan," writes the independent "525-gazeti." "Armenians are doing whatever they want on our lands, Iranian Mullahs are free to do whatever they want in our house," the paper claims in its latest issue. Iranian TV channels are available and increasingly popular among the population of villages close to Baku, the paper writes. "Armenians have occupied our lands, the Mullahs have occupied our air waves," the paper claims, and continues: "[Just] as we lost the war with the Armenians, now we are losing the information war. Our intellectuals have lost the propaganda struggle." The paper accuses Iran "of spreading Persian chauvinist ideology among the inhabitants of Baku's villages."

The paper "Hurriyet," published by the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, comments on the infighting within the country's ruling elite. "The fight within the ruling circle is very fierce, but it does not spread outside because of the fear of being punished by President Heidar Aliev," the paper notes.

(Samira Gaziyeva and Mirza Xazar)