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Alleged Islamic Insurgents On Trial In Azerbaijan

BAKU -- The trial is continuing in Baku of 31 alleged members of an Islamic insurgent group accused of terrorist activities in the North Caucasus and Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The suspects, who are accused of being a branch of the so-called Forest Brothers insurgent group, are also charged with forming a radical religious group and illegal possession of weapons and drugs. They were arrested last year in Baku.

Sixteen members of the group were convicted and sentenced to jail terms in 2009.

Prosecutors said the Forest Brothers are responsible for an attempt to blow up an Azerbaijani oil pipeline last year and the 2008 bombing at the Abu Bakr Mosque in Baku that killed two people.

The group is accused of attending training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Emin Cami, one of the alleged leaders of the group, testified in court that he agreed to fight against Russian forces in the North Caucasus "without any hesitation, since Russia is occupying Muslim lands and every Muslim should join the struggle against Russian aggression."

But others testified that they had not taken part in any activities with the group and said they had been tortured while questioned in detention during the investigation.

One defendant told the court he works as a doctor in Baku and had never been part of any illegal armed group. He said he had only been arrested because of an alleged link to a member of the group.

The Forest Brothers group is purported to have been active in Daghestan, Chechnya, and other parts of Russia's North Caucasus for the past few years and Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry said in 2008 that the group had ties to a militant group based in northern Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani media reported that the leader of the group, Azer Misirkhanov, was killed fighting in Afghanistan in September.