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Azerbaijan Report: September 21, 2001

21 September 2001
Sumgayit Branch Of Adalat Party Shut Down
Sumgayit police officials arrested some 10 members of the Adalat Party on 19 September but set free seven of them later the same day. Mutallim Rahimli, Adalat Party Deputy Chairman, was also released. The party officials held a press conference in this connection at which Adalat party chairman Ilyas Ismailov called the incidents acts of violence and demanded the immediate release of the other members of the party. The party has established a Committee for Protection of the Detainees' Rights. Lawyer Etimad Ismailov will defend them.

The reason for the dispute between the Sumgayit Police and the Adalat party is that some days ago Adalat's Sumgayit office was sealed. Despite the party members' demands, there was no clarification of the reasons for this action. The party members removed the seal and continued working in the building. The same thing was repeated several times after which the door of the office. was finally sealed.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Contradictions In The Presidential Office
The chairman of the pro-governmen Ana Vatan (Motherland) party, Fezail Aghamali, has recently accused Ramiz Mehdiev, Head of the President's Executive Office, of disloyalty to President Aliyev and of political immorality. Such accusations have been brought against Mehdiev several times over the eight years of Heydar Aliev's power. But Aghamali's accusations differ for their harshness and being unequivocal. Aghamali says that while President Aliyev was being treated abroad for health problems, Mehdiev conveyed to the press the so called "X-day" philosophy, meaning the course of action to be taken following the president's death. Aghamali claims that Mehdiev wanted to create uncertainty in the country, held talks with some forces as well as leading opposition parties and tried to obtain from them a pledge that they would not create obstacles to his advent to power. Aghamali gives as examples the names of Musavat, Democratic Parties and the classical wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party with whom Mehdiev allegedly met. According to Aghamali, Mehdiev is directly responsible for the dismissal of several state officials who were distinguished for their loyalty to President Aliev.

According to Musavat Party Secretary Arif Hajiev, Musavat's name cannot be mentioned in this context because the Musavat Party itself wants to come to power. Hajiev does not rule out the involvement of some party members in this affair, pointing out that the party does not bear responsibility for the actions of any of its members.

Aydin Guliev, Secretary for Ideology of the opposition Azerbaijan Democratic Party, also refutes the rumors about the party he represents. According to Guliev, Ramiz Mehdiev played an exclusive role in the government's erronous policy against the people but Aghamali's statements cannot be ignored.

Mirmahmud Fettaev, Chairman of the classical wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, says Ramiz Mehdiev is one of three persons who are very loyal to President Aliev's family. Fettaev suggest that Aghamali may have made those accusations against Mehdiev under pressure.

(Babek Bekir)

Anniversary of the 1994 Oil Contracts
According to official statistics, up to now, Azerbaijan has signed some 21 agreements for the joint development of oil and gas fields in its sector in the Caspian with 30 major companies from 14 countries of the world. The agreements are estimated at US$60 billion. According to Khoshbakht Yusifzade, Vice-president of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, 14 million tons of oil was produced in Azerbaijan last year compared with only 9 million in 1997. Since 1994, foreign companies have invested some US$4.55 billion in Azerbaijan.

Vahid Mursaliev, Doctor of the International ECO Energy Academy, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that there is nothing to be proud of in the oil sphere because no state body has disclosed today how much of the investments benefit the Azerbaijan people.

Mirvari Gahramanli, co-chair of the Center for Protection of Oilworkers' Rights, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service referred to the violation of labour rights at foreign companies operatiing in Azerbaijan and to discrimination against Azerbaijani workers. She said immediately after commencement of their activity, transnational corporations put an end to the existence of trade unions. Protection of human rights is absolutely out of control in those companies which have also blocked national production.

Gahramanli said foreign companies import the equipment required for the oil industry from England and Germany. The biggest tragedy is that they also bring workers from Malaysia and Philippines on the grounds that Azerbaijani oil workers allegedly do not know English. According to Gahramanli, discrimination against Azerbaijani oil workers is reflected in salaries as well. Englishmen and Lebanese engineers receive the highest salaries.

Gubad Ibadoglu, Chairman of the Musavat party commission on the economy, says that oil revenues are not directed at Azerbaijan economy and it is consciously delaying all lateral development of the country's economy.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

U.S. Responded To Azerbaijan President's Letter
The U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan has responded to Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev's letter of condolences to U.S. President George Bush for the terrorist acts in New York and Washington D.C. U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson has sent a letter to President Aliyev noting that G. Bush was deeply pleased with the support and solidarity expressed in the letter. The letter reads that we must work together to combat this common danger for the humanity.

The terror acts in New York and Washington continue to dominate political discussions in Azerbaijan. Gabil Husseinli, Advisor to the Musavat party chairman, positively evaluates the U.S.Ambassador's letter to President Aliev. According to Husseinli, after the terrorist acts in the U.S., terrorism will seriously be combatted and Azerbaijan will have to define its place in this struggle. Azerbaijan pursues a proper pro-Western policy and it can bring success to Azerbaijan's political perspectives.

Referring to Azerbaijan's exposure to the Armenian terror, Husseinli said that elimination of international terror and the states' joint steps to combat it will make the world community recognize the Armenian terrorism against Azerbaijan. As to the extent to which U.S. anti-terror operations in Azerbaijan will impact on Azerbaijan's relations with Iran, Husseinli thinks that we should not fear anybody in this connection. According to Husseinli, Iran is recognized as a country supporting terror.

According to Turan's expert Hasan Guliev, Azerbaijan must express its unilateral support for the U.S. in connection with the expected anti-terror operations to be conducted by the U.S.

(Almaz Nasibova)

Situation In Azerbaijan's Prisons
The Baku-based Institute for Peace and Democracy has released a report on conditions in Gobustan Closed Prison. The report reads that after visit to Baku by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Lord Russell Johnston, prisoners in the Gobustan Closed Prison have been treated more strictly. Leyla Yunus, Head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that the Justice Ministry's Department for control of prisons has refurbished some penal colonies in Azerbaijan and they take foreign guests to those colonies. Yunus said Gobustan prison has also been refurbished, but the situation there has not improved. There is no serious control over prisoners' security. Yunus said a fellow prisoner recently attacked Alikram Humbatov, who is accused of declaring the Talysh Mugan Republic in 1993 and thus damaging Azerbaijan's state building. Yunus said that immediately after R.Johnston left Baku, they forcefully cut Humbatov's hair in the prison.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Foreign Embassies In Azerbaijan Are Protected
The information agency "Turan" reports that U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson met with officials of the companies working in Azerbaijan and offered some recommendations to them. He pointed out the existence of danger for foreign citizens, particularly Americans, in Azerbaijan. The "Toronto Globe and Mail" newspaper has published a list of some 16 countries which are conflict zones or centers for terrorists' training. The U.S. State Department released a report last year which identified Azerbaijan name as a transit country for terrorists.

Political scientist Rasim Musabeyov thinks that there is no need to get concerned about a list given by a newspaper or magazine because it is not a state document. Referring to the U.S. State Department statement, Musabeyov says it is understandable, as Azerbaijan is a neighbor of countries backing terror, meaning Iran and the Northern Caucasus. According to Musabeyov, Azerbaijan must not be characterized as a country supporting terror. Musabeyov said that we can speak about the activity of international terror organizations in Azerbaijan but the law-enforcement bodies of the country are sensitive in combating them.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs Press Service, they keep the issue at the focus of attention. After the terrorist acts, the security of not only the U.S. but also other countries' embassies in Azerbaijan has been reinforced.

(Babek Bekir)

Khalid Gudratoglu in his article "The problem of comprehension or the lessons of terror" in the pro-government newspaper "Azerbaijan" refers to the terrorist acts in U.S. He says that the terror brought out that the problem is not local or national but massive and international belonging to the whole of humanity. The author writes that superpowers have exclusive roles in the creation and development of terrorism. Gudratoglu refers to evidence that the U.S. financed the Armenian terror organization ASALA which was responsible for an explosion in the Baku Metro in 1995. Russian soldiers committed the tragedies of 20 January and Khojaly. The Communist regime was the author of the terror that was committed in 1948-1953.

Rustam Mammadov, who is the Head of the Presidential Office's Sociopolitical Department, told the newspaper "525" that terrorists will be prevented from coming to Azerbaijan and solidarity with the countries combating terror will be demonstrated. Mammadov thinks that the world has recognized that Armenians are terrorists who have aggravated the situation in Armenia and the neighboring countries. Mammadov is confident that world countries will back Azerbaijan's activity against terrorism.

Rahib Kazimli in his commentary "War" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the U.S.'s intention of pursuing war with another state did not cause a protest by some countries which declared their support for USA. The author writes in connection with Azerbaijan that the cease-fire concluded "wisely" in 1994 has neither returned Karabakh to Azerbaijan's control nor enabled Azerbaijani refugees to return to their homes, and that the corpses of dead soldiers are still brought back to Azerbaijan. In reality, Azerbaijan has a greater right to pursue war. Though paradoxical, when speaking of war, the ideologists of H.Aliev's "peace-loving" policy recall the U.S. and Western countries. The author stresses in conclusion that the U.S.'s resolute steps once more demonstrated that the state is committed to protect not its military strength and government but its citizens and their rights.

Afag writes in the newspaper "Azadlig" that the terrible terrorist acts in America have minimized reception of foreign delegations in this country. The author notes that after the terrorist acts in the U.S., the children's problem passed to the background. According to Afag, orphaned children, exploitation of children's labor, street children, and children involved in immorality and pornography are the problems of future because those children are today's potential criminals. Afag points out that such problems have no boundaries and the same problem is encountered in Maraza, Chicago and Copenhagen to certain extent.

Adalat Party Chairman Ilyas Ismailov noted in his interview with the newspaper "Azadlig" that it is necessary to exclude the word "successor" from the political lexicon. According to Ismailov, "successor" is a notion of monarchy. The government is not somebody's legacy which can be passed to a successor. Each Azerbaijani citizen has a constitutional right to take part in presidential elections.

Alieva in her article "Fezail Aghamali anticipates Ramiz Mehdiev's reaction" carried by the newspaper "Ekho" writes that the discussions over the "succession plan" are intensifying. Ana Vatan party chairman Fezail Aghamali thinks that the head of the Presidential Office Ramiz Mehdiev is trying to drive a wedge between Ilham Aliyev with his team. According to the author, Mehdiev refused to take part in the parliamentary elections and thus preserved his governmental post. Alieva notes that the opposition parties whose names have been mentioned in connection with Mehdiev did not participate in the parliamentary elections although Mehdiev played the main role in organizing those elections. The author calls the developments a major maneuver in policy.

An article entitled "New hope for refugees" carried by the newspaper "Zerkalo" says that the Azerbaijani refugees' problems remain to the priority issue for the state. According to official statistics, some 700,000 refugees are from Azerbaijan's occupied districts, some 250,000 refugees have been deported from Armenia and some 50,000 Azerbaijani refugees have come from Central Asia. The author says humanitarian organizations allot assistance to refugees. The author recalls that UN assistance to Azerbaijan was to be ended in summer 1999 but the term was extended for three years following the Azerbaijani President's appeal.

The newspaper "525" writes that Czech law-enforcement bodies have accused famous businessman Viktor Kozeny of financial fraud. At present, U.S. law-enforcement bodies are investigating Kozeny's activities in Azerbaijan. The newspaper writes that Kozeny took a close part in the privatization process in Azerbaijan and obtained some $700 million for privatizating Azerbaijan�s oil industry, particularly, SOCAR. When the shareholders demanded their money back from Kozeny, he claimed to have given it to the Azerbaijan government as a bribe.

The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" writes that some 98.6 percent of the land reform has been implemented. The land reform in the republic will soon be completed. The reforms are carried out under a program. Although it was planned to complete the land reforms by the middle of this year, they were delayed for some reason.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)