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Azerbaijan Report: October 2, 2001

2 October 2001
Council Of Europe Protests Against Pressure On Journalists In Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijani government has always exerted pressure on newspapers and media representatives in Azerbaijan. Before, such government officials as former Baku mayor Rafael Allahverdiev, Parliament speaker Murtuz Alasgarov, and presidential administration head Ramiz Mehtiyev were behind such pressure which ended in victory for the journalists involved. Now the government has begun a new round of pressure. There is a difference between the earlier and the present campaigns. Then the government took to the court such famous newspapers as "Azadlig," "Yeni Musavat," "Uch nogta" and "Avropa". But now the government gives preference to less-well known media outlets. Some employees of the newspapers "Bakinskii Bulvar", "Milletin Sesi", "Avtoritet", "Avropa", "Ulus", "TV park" have been arrested, brought to trial and sentenced. Criminal proceedings have been instituted against some journalists. Irada Huseinova, an Azerbaijani journalist from the newspaper "Bakinskii Bulvar," has been granted political asylum in Europe. Eynulla Fatullayev from the newspaper "Milletin sesi" has asked the Netherlands for political asylum.

The Council of Europe has reacted to the pressure on journalists in Azerbaijan. Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer has released a report demanding that the Azerbaijani government fulfill its commitments to the Council. According to the agency "Turan," Schwimmer stated that the Azerbaijan government must guarantee freedom of expression and independent journalism. Referring to information provided by Azerbaijan-based non-governmental organisations, Schwimmer pointed out the existence of hundreds of political prisoners in the country. He said Azerbaijani officials must settle within a short period of time all the problems which are not appropriate for a Council member.

RFE/RL's Azerbaijan service has learnt from lawyer Saida Gojamanli that Irada Huseinova, who has been granted asylum abroad, will be evicted from her apartment in Baku although it is not legal to do so under the Azerbaijani legislation.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Azerbaijani Delegation Took Part In PACE Session
The Azerbaijani delegation took part in the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held on 24-29 September in Strasbourg and the Azerbaijani press broadly covered the delegation's activity in PACE. The Council of Europe Ministerial Committee's response to Azerbaijani delegate Gultekin Hajiyeva's inquiry regarding Azerbaijan's territorial integrity has been evaluated as a new victory in the pro-governmental press. The Council of Europe adopted two documents which addressed the right to education of the children of internally displaced persons and discussion of the Armenian-Azerbaijanian conflict in one of the next PACE sessions. The Azerbaijani government described the use by the Council of the term "illegitimate" with regards to the elections in Nagorno Karabakh as almost a victory over Armenia.

Azerbaijan's former state advisor Vafa Guluzade in his interview with the newspaper "Azadlig" commented on official efforts to present the performance of the Azerbaijani delegation to Council of Europe as a victory for Azerbaijan, saying that it is impossible to get back Azerbaijan's occupied lands by making presentations at Council of Europe. The Azerbaijani people have expected for over 10 years that international organisations will take Karabakh from Armenians and give it back to Azerbaijan.

Guluzade admitted that he too was part of this propaganda campaign while serving as advisor to the President and he also used to deceive people by making false statements. A number of international organisations recognise Azerbaijan's territorial integrity but according to experts, if the aggressor side does not recognise Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, we cannot speak of peace. According to lawyers, the appeal to CE to recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is not legally binding.

(Almaz Nasibova)

Azerbaijan Parliament Met In Autumn Session
The Azerbaijan parliament began its autumn session on 1 October and the key topic of the discussions was combatting terrorism. The session agenda includes the bills "On Education," "On combatting corruption," "On the status of Baku," "On local taxes and payments," and "On alternative service." The Azerbaijan Parliament considered Azerbaijan's joining the Convention on Fighting the Financing of International Terrorism. Deputies unanimously approved of the convention on combating the financing of terrorism. Then the parliament began discussions on combatting international terrorism. There was established a working group to prepare a relevant decision.

Opposition members of the parliament protested against the pressure on the mass media in Azerbaijan and also suggested discussing the social state of the population in the republic.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Karabakh Liberation Organisation Suggests Changing The Mediator In The Peace Talks
The Karabakh Liberation Organisation suggests that Azerbaijan should reject the OSCE Minsk Group's mediation in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and find another mediator. Then Azerbaijan should stop all meetings and talks with Armenia and deliver its demands to the opposite side through the new mediator. According to KLO leaders, after the mediator is changed, Azerbaijan must put forth a deadline for the Armenian armed groups to withdraw from its territories and after the term expires, must restore its sovereign rights on its territory. The KLO did not sign the All-National Charter drafted by four independent and opposition Azerbaijani political scientists.

According to KLO leader Akif Naghi, unlike the four, they demand stricter methods to change the existing situation. On 2 September, the KLO held a press conference and acquainted the journalists with the organisation's standpoint regarding the liberation of Azerbaijan's lands. The document reads that the proposals put forth by the OSCE and its co-chairs over the past eight years have been contradictory to Azerbaijan's interests.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Journalists Concerned About Pressure On Their Counterparts
The Committee for Freedom of Expression and Protection the Arrested Journalists held a meeting on 2 October and discussed the pressure on some journalists and mass media in Azerbaijan. Azer Hesret, Chairman of the Journalists' Trade Unions, stated that they intend to stage a warning strike on 5 October. He said the government's rising pressure on the free press and independent journalists has not been responded to. This strike will be the beginning of the necessary response. According to Hesret, beginning next week, actions of protest will continue and changes will be made to their form and content.

Leyla Yunus, Chairwoman of the Committee for Freedom of Expression and Protection of the Arrested Journalists, stated that leading opposition parties have also expressed their intention to stage actions of protest. Nureddin Mammadly, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Azerbaijan Democrat Party, provided the latest information on this issue noting that the talks are yielding results. Other speakers included Fakhraddin Aghazade, the committee member, Sabir Rustamkhanly, Chairman of the Civil Solidarity Party who referred to the details of the repression on journalists and the mass media.

(Babek Bekir)

Azerbaijani-Georgian Disputes On Gas Settled
The disputes between Azerbaijan and Georgia over the tariffs for the transportation of Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas to world markets have been finalised at last. Experts from both countries have spent the recent months on determining transit fees. Azerbaijan offered Georgia $2-4.25, but Georgia demanded $ 5-10 at the World Bank's suggestion. It was reported prior to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's visit to Baku that Georgia will obtain part of the tariffs by gas. Experts in Baku think that Azerbaijan's limit of concessions is not great and most probably, Baku has not given up its former proposals.

According to Ingilab Ahmadov, Head of the agency "Trend," the signing of the agreement is more significant for Azerbaijan than the tariffs it will pay. He said that although the terms of the agreement do not seem attractive for Azerbaijan now, the signing of the agreement can be considered successful for Azerbaijan from the strategic standpoint.

Gubad Ibadoglu, Head of the Union of Journalists for Economy and Chairman of Economic Commission of the Musavat party also thinks that the agreement meets Azerbaijan's political interests. But according to him, the tariff of $5-10, which the World Bank demands, is far from reality. Ibadoglu said the agreement is purely economic and therefore Azerbaijan does not lose great amounts.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Two Karabakh Invalids Released From Jail
The Court of Appeals ruled on 28 September to release the Karabakh invalids Goundouz Rahimov and Fuad Baladadashov. Last July, the Republican Court for Severe Crimes sentenced Rahimov to five and Baladadashov to two years in prison. But the Court of Appeals substituted suspended sentences in both cases.

On 28 September, both prisoners returned home. Rahimov says that the ruling of the Court of Appeals was quite unexpected for him because the victory of justice in Azerbaijani courts has recently become absurd. Rahimov who was the deputy chairman of the Karabakh Invalids' Society, claims that after the invalids detained under the same provisions were released either by court or amnesty, it would not be right to keep him in jail. According to Rahimov, although he was isolated from society and his family members for eight months he does not regret the struggle he pursued. Rahimov thanked the Karabakh Invalids' Society, human rights organisations working in the republic and media representatives for their material and moral support while he was in jail.

Rahimov thinks their demands to raise invalids' pensions and to create a working mechanism for their privileges are just and hopes that the government will have to admit it sooner or later. He said either the state must intensify propaganda for its citizens to recognise their rights or citizens must do so themselves.

(Babek Bekir)

Azerbaijan And Georgia Signed Agreement On Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum Gas Pipeline
On 29 September, the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia Heydar Aliyev and Eduard Shevardnadze, signed an inter-governmental agreement for the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline construction project. After the signing ceremony, the two presidents held a joint press conference. The Azerbaijani president provided brief information on the work carried out in oil and gas fields in Azerbaijan�s sector of the Caspian. President Aliyev pointed out that over the past seven years, that is since the signing of Azerbaijan�s first oil contract, the Azerbaijani people has faced a number of obstacles but overcame all of them. According to Aliev, the Baku-Supsa, Baku-Novorossiysk, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipelines got their official status after long lasting talks.

In his remarks, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze pointed out President Aliev�s great role in realisation of these projects. Expressing major hopes in the future of the Shah Deniz field, President Shevardnadze highly evaluated Heydar Aliev�s concessions in this process saying that the concessions are very important for his country, the economy of which is not in a pleasing state.

The Azerbaijani President said that gas transportation by the pipeline will begin in 2004. The Georgian president said that some people in his country are concerned about how long it will take before they see the benefits of the agreement.

Then the two presidents answered journalists' questions. Asked by a Georgian journalist "How will security be ensured for the gas pipeline while major-scale terrorism is ongoing in the world?" Aliyev said it is a very significant issue. According to him, there are military conflicts in the Trans-Caucasus and both Georgia and Azerbaijan suffer from these conflicts. Aliyev stressed it is urgent for the world community to join efforts to combat terrorism, adding that both he and E. Shevardnadze have been the victims of terrorism several times.

An Azerbaijani journalist asked whether the pressure on ethnic Azerbaijanis in Georgia is the result of state policy or the acts of separate people. E.Shevardnadze did not expect such a straightforward question, was taken aback for a moment and H.Aliyev helped him saying that they have no reliable information in this regard. The Georgian president added smiling that everything is normal.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Chechnya Propose Azerbaijan As Mediator
The deadly terrorist acts in New York and Washington D.C. on 11 September made urgent the commencement of talks on resolving several conflicts. Russian officials have suggested the Chechen Republic launching talks. Aslan Mashatov, President of Chechnya stated that they wanted Georgia to mediate in the talks. Russia immediately reacted to the proposal declaring that if the talks began, Russia would resort to its opportunities in order to normalise the ties. Ali Asayev, Head of the Chechen representation in Azerbaijan, disclosed his country's proposal for the talks. Now, the Chechens suggest that Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev should mediate in the talks. They also suggest that the talks should be conducted on Azerbaijan's territory. Asayev says that they will try to learn the Azerbaijani President's position in near future and if they get a positive answer, Chechnya will officially appeal to Azerbaijan to cooperate in other spheres.

Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev told ANS TV that Azerbaijan's mediation in talks can be discussed only when the Russian government puts forth the proposal. Azerbaijan recognises Russia's territorial integrity and supports the peaceful resolution of all conflicts. Guliev says that if Moscow makes such a proposal, they will not spare efforts to obtain positive results.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Mushvig Huseinov, in his article "$500m worth share to Georgia" in the newspaper "Azadlig," claims that Azerbaijan has made serious concessions to Georgia in gas transportation. Huseinov writes that the details of the agreement were covered up to such an extent that one has the impression the agreement is a personal one between Aliyev and Shevardnadze and does not concern the Azerbaijani people. Huseinov said SOCAR President Natig Aliyev stated prior to signing of the contract that Azerbaijan itself could buy the Shah Deniz gas. Huseinov asks why SOCAR does not buy the gas if it can do so. According to Huseinov, the agreement has put an end to the Azerbaijani people's hopes pinned on Shah Deniz. The naive estimations, which a simple Azerbaijani peasant joined with great willingness to obtain some share, are now behind.

Bakhtiyar Tunjay, in his article "Obstacle number one" in the newspaper "525," writes that the questions asked in the press conference in Baku held by the Azerbaijani and Georgian presidents after the ceremony of signing documents for transportation of Azerbaijan gas to Turkey via Georgian territory, demonstrated that the issue is not resolved and the problem of ensuring security for the Baku-Erzurum gas and Baku-Ceyhan oil pipelines still remain. The author claims that it will not be easy to protect these strategic facilities of some kilometres long against possible terrorist acts. According to the author, it is very important to think about the security of the pipelines when the problems of Osetiya and Chechnya remain unsolved and the Armenian special service bodies make efforts to create a new zone of tension in the Zagatala-Balaken district of Azerbaijan.

Elbrus Jafarly writes about the Shah Deniz field in the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," noting that despite the pessimistic statements about the gas pipeline construction, the signing of the agreement once more proved that pessimism is groundless. However, after the agreements on the pipeline construction were reached, new allegations were made about Azerbaijan's failure in the transit tariffs. Jafarly notes that all this is groundless and the discovery of the Shah Deniz gas has made possible Azerbaijan's inclusion into the list of countries that export natural gas. According to the author, there is a need for other energy projects to transport potential gas reserves to world markets.

Habil in the newspaper "Alternativ" refers to the terrorist acts Armenia wages against Azerbaijan. According to Habil, Armenian President Robert Kocharyan and Zori Balayan are on the top of these terrorist acts. Habil claims that if the matter is in international anti-terror operations, then why are the Armenian terrorism and the Armenian President Kocharyan not remembered? The author recalls that Stepan Demirchiyan, Chairman of the Armenian People's Party has made a statement accusing his government leaders of patronising terrorists. Habil does not rule out that Kocharyan has committed terror against the Armenians. According to him, Azerbaijan has precise information about Kocharyan's direct involvement in some serious crimes.

Zahid Safaroglu in the article entitled "Repeal of Section 907" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Azerbaijan has never been so close to having Section 907 repealed and the new political situation in the world requires it. According to Safaroglu, Washington has purely political goals in keeping "907" in force. The author claims that if the figure of some $10 million is a minor figure for Azerbaijan, it is a microscopic one for the U.S. According to the author, the repeal of the section will depend on the role Azerbaijan plays in anti-terror operations.

Mirgadirov writes in the newspaper "Zerkalo" that the developments in the world after the terrorist acts in Washington and New York create opportunities for resolving the Karabakh problem. According to the author, the White House administration is eager to begin talks with the Congress for repeal of Section 907. Mirgadirov considers all this the success of the Azerbaijan diplomacy, noting that it is high time to begin anti-terror operations in Karabakh, otherwise it will be late. According to the author, now, no attention will be given to our anti-terror operations because the U.S. tries to punish Afghan Talibs but Russia wants to revenge on Chechens.

Kamal in his article "'Cleansed' ways of the government" carried by the newspaper "Ulus" writes that Heydar Aliyev seems to have found the most successful method for bringing his successor into the government. Ilham Aliev's activity in the Council of Europe paves great opportunities for him to become the leader. The government tries to make use of this factor for propagating him. According to Kamal, Ilham Aliyev is inspired by his activity in the Council of Europe and has begun the sharp attack on the opposition. He accuses the opposition of working for Armenians and carrying materials meeting Armenia's interests.

Mammadly writes in the newspaper "Tezadlar" that Faig Zulfugarov, Head of ABA TV, was granted political asylum in the U.S. According to Mammadly, everybody is well aware of ABA's fate. But this is the end of those who create problems for the country. Mammadly stresses that when he heard about Faig Zulfugarov's receiving political asylum in the U.S., he felt pity for our people. He said Zulfugarov had opportunities and could go abroad but what can the 8 million Azerbaijani people do who also needs political asylum?

Zardusht Alizade, co-chair of the Azerbaijan Social Democratic Party (ASDP), in response to the question "Which force will be the government's main rival in the presidential elections?" in the newspaper "Hurriyyet" said there are several possible scenarios. One is that the situation on the eve of the elections will create conditions for Rasul Guliev and Ayaz Mutallibov to return to Azerbaijan and take part in the elections. If so, then the election scene will seriously change. But if Guliev and Mutallibov are not allowed to return to Azerbaijan, the government will skilfully use the schism among the opposition leaders. Alizade claims that the government will falsify the elections in the first round and declare the government's candidate the winner.

"Azerbaijan 21st century" party chairman Fizuli Mammadov, aka businessman Elkaponi, who is now in jail in Russia, in an interview with the newspaper "Ekho," accused high-ranking officials of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs of being behind his arrest. Elkaponi claims that General Orlov from Russian Interior Ministry took part in his arrest, noting that employees of the ministry came to him on 28 May and demanded $150.000 from him. Elkaponi said he had no money, which led to his arrest on 4 June. Elkaponi claims in the interview that up to now, Azerbaijan's ambassador to Moscow has not called on him. Elkaponi said he will appeal to the Azerbaijani President, expressing confidence that only the Azerbaijani President and people can help him.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)