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Azerbaijan Report: November 30, 2001

30 November 2001
Gerard Stoudmann Visited Baku
The Director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Ambassador Gerard Stoudmann, visited Baku on 28-30 November. He met on 28 November with President Heidar Aliyev and then separately with a group of Azerbaijani lawyers. Chingiz Ganizade, Head of the Committee for Democracy and Human Rights, said that before meeting Aliev, Stoudmann visited Isgandar Hamidov, Rahim Gaziev, Alikram Humbatov and other prisoners in the Gobustan prison. Ganizade said that he protested the OSCE and the Council of Europe's tolerance of the Azerbaijani government's indifferent attitude to their demands for carrying out the two organizations' requirements. He said the Azerbaijani government does not implement the human rights commitments it made prior to its acceptance into the Council of Europe.

Ganizade quoted Stoudmann as expressing concern about the pressure on the Azerbaijani press and the arrests of journalists. Stoudmann said that one of the reasons for the OSCE's failure to take action on the issue is that the organization received contradictory lists form Azerbaijan. Stoudmann suggested that the lawyers should submit a single list to international organizations.

A seminar "Against torture" was held on 29 November in Reformatory No. 2. According to Murad Sadeddinov, Head of the Fund for the Development of Democracy and Protection of Human Rights, government officials, representative of NGOs and prisoners attended the seminar. Some prisoners spoke about problems in prisons.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijanis Released From Armenian Captivity
Three Azerbaijani citizens have returned from Armenian captivity to the Azerbaijani state committee on work with captives and hostages. On 28 November, those men held a meeting with media representatives at the Ministry for National Security (MNS). Araz Gurbanov, Head of the MNS press service said that while in captivity, Mahammad Ojagverdiyev, Etibar Aliyev and Barkhudar Rustamov were exposed to extreme torture. Gurbanov said that to date, over 1,100 Azerbaijani citizens have been released from the Armenian captivity and returned to their homelands. But there is no information about the fate of a further 783 Azerbaijani prisoners. The state commission has appealed in this connection to the Armenian side more than once but no answer has been received.

Barkhudar Rustamov is from Azerbaijan's occupied Lachin district and was arrested when he was visiting his homeland. He was prevented from meeting with officials of the International Federation of the Red Cross each time they visited the prison. Etibar Aliyev and Mahammad Ojagverdiyev were arrested on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave and held in the prison of the Armenian Ministry of National Security, where they were exposed to severe tortures. Etibar Aliyev lived in Russia and he was extremely exposed to torture.

Rahim Safarov, head of the MNS military hospital, said that the Azerbaijanis' rehabilitation will take many years.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Elshad Pashayev in an article "Aliev's state" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that even though Heydar Aliyev has 30 years experience in a governing, he still needs the help of the people surrounding him. This shows that he will leave power in near future. Heydar Aliyev knows very well that few people love him and are loyal to him, but he has no way back, because he has destroyed the bridges connecting him with all those he has left behind. The author recalls that at the recent second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijani Party, Aliyev criticized not only the opposition and opposition papers but also some high-rank officials of his team as well. It became known that Aliyev was displeased with the fact that the members of his team did not react to the rumors about him. Previously, they denied much of what was written about Aliyev and his family, but now they keep silent because they are aware Aliev's weakness.

The article "Post-Aliyev period" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" reads that almost everybody in Azerbaijan avoids expressing political preferences, claiming that he does not understand politics, is not interested in political processes and that only his family's problems matter to him. The reason is the regime Heydar Aliyev has established. But as soon as there is a change of the country's leadership, the majority of these people will turn to political parties. The same flow must be expected from YAP as well. The author writes that it is not a problem to feel how minor officials and businessmen are fed up with the regime the government has formed. The people are also fed up with the shallow propaganda of the regime. According to the author, extreme advertisement is anti-advertisement, as each Azerbaijani citizen knows well the situation in the country.

Gabil Abbasoglu in an article "Aliev's intrigue giants" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Heydar Aliev's successor Ilham Aliyev may have to confront the giants' anger. Ramiz Mehtiyev and Murtuz Alasgarov occupy a particular place among these giants of intrigue. Common interests have made these men one team, which is clear from the fact that immediately after the parliamentary elections, Murtuz Alasgarov did not consider it necessary to resign from the speaker's post. He said that he can compete with any challenger, which suggested that he counted on the parliament's support. Then the question arises who forms unofficially the composition of the Azerbaijani parliament. Naturally, it is the presidential administration head Ramiz Mehtiyev. The author writes that even though not openly, the government secretly studies the joint activity of these two politicians. Simultaneously, the Alasgarov-Mehtiyev couple is a serious obstacle to Heydar Aliyev bringing his son Ilham to power.

Azerbaijan National Independence Party deputy chairman Ilgar Mehdiyev in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the present opposition will never be able to decide on a single presidential candidate. According to Mammadov, his attitude to Musavat party leader Isa Gambar's proposals is not negative. But he and many others have problems with this party. First of all, Musavat must try to settle those problems, then they will also do everything possible for integration of the opposition. Mammadov says that Musavat also has a different attitude to the issue of a single candidate.

Rasim Bayramov writes in the newspaper "Hurriyyet" that after the Taliban's eclipse, the main problem in Afghanistan will be connected with the new government. Until representation in the government is determined, serious problems in Afghanistan will not be settled. Because it is not only Afghanistan's problem. Russian and U.S. interests collide in Afghanistan as in the Caucasus. While the U.S. backs Zahir Shah, Russia together with the Northern Alliance is interested in finding another person to lead Afghanistan, and Russia's position in this territory is still strong. It is not certain that the interests of the U.S., which defends Zahir Shah, will prevail. After all this, Washington will not give up its interests. Because of this, predictions that the conflict will end in near future are not convincing. The conflict in Afghanistan will lessen after the interests of the world countries are ensured.

Fakhri Kerimil writes in the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" that for the first time in the history, the Armenian lobby in America has collapsed. Different Armenian political leaders express concern about the possible full repeal of section 907. Armenians have already begun arguing that if the U.S. wished, it would liberate Armenia from the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockade. He writes that the Armenian Assembly in America is also experiencing problems. Armenians have recognized that the enforcement of Section 907 up to now has not been in compliance with the U.S. interests.

Liberal Party Chairwoman Lale Shovket in an interview with the newspaper "525" noted that she feels ashamed to fight for power along with five or six other politicians. According to Shovket, to judge by Azerbaijani politicians' activities, they seem to have come from another planet and the developments in this country do not concern them. Shovket says that everybody knows the terrible conditions in which people live, but they do not intend to make a serious effort to improve them. She argues that as mass actions of protest are a powerful means of exerting pressure on the government, the opposition should take courageous steps to organize such protests. The government should recognize that the people are not its enemies. The people need both social and moral support. If the government recognizes this, then it can retain power for long time.

Boyukagha Aghayev in an article "The next assassination show" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that the government already uses for their own goals the men who have returned from Armenian captivity. The Ministry for National Security has recently held a meeting with those captives who claimed that the Armenians trained them and suggested killing Ilham Aliev. According to the Azerbaijani captives, they were also asked to assassinate members of former Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey's family. Why were the captives were released after refusing to carry out such killings? The author writes that it becomes clear that the assassination plan was plotted by Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The author recalls that when Azerbaijani Minister for Health Ali Insanov visited Armenia some years ago, Armenians told him that they pinned all their hopes in Heydar Aliev. Why then should the Armenians want to assassinate Ilham Aliev? The author also writes that Ilham Aliyev is not a figure whose physical loss can seriously damage the Azerbaijani state.

Zulfiyye in the newspaper "525" comments on the opinions the director of the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Gerard Stoudmann, expressed at the press conference he held in Baku. Stoudman said that he visited the Gobustan prison and reformatory 1. As for torture in those prisons, the OSCE official said that there is no country in the world, which does not resort to torture. The main thing is that attempts to prevent torture are hindered. Stoudmann said that he knows the situation in Azerbaijan very well and the identity of those who resort to torture should be determined by the Azerbaijani leadership. If some of these people are punished in place and their names are not included into amnesty decrees, then the drawbacks can be settled. The author writes that the OSCE official expressed support for the establishment of alternative courts in Azerbaijan. But it is impossible to believe that all these proposals will be realised. But at least the situation in Azerbaijan is within the international community's interests. Regardless of the government's position, the situation in the country is well known to outside organizations.

In an interview with the newspaper "Ekho", ODIHR Director Gerard Stoudmann said that the Azerbaijani leadership should pay greater attention to cases of harsh treatment of religious organizations and believers of different religions in Azerbaijan.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)