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Azerbaijan Deports Iranian Journalists

BAKU -- Iranian television producer Shaban Ali Keyvani and cameraman Masud Vaezi have been deported from Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Police in the Caspian Sea port of Lankaran detained the two -- who work for the Iranian state television station Sahar -- on July 22 and charged them with violating migration rules.

Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov said the two overstayed their visas by seven days and were transferred to Azerbaijan's Migration Service.

Sahar TV representative Burhan Hikmeti told RFE/RL that the journalists did not violate any rules and added that their detention was illegal.

The Iranian Embassy confirmed that Keyvani and Vaezi were detained, but denied they are employees of Sahar TV.

Hikmeti said he is concerned by the deportation and stated that "the Azerbaijani government should not have done it."

Sahar TV broadcasts in the Azeri language to Azerbaijan, where it is fairly popular.

An estimated 25 percent of Iran's population is made up of ethnic Azeris, who face cultural and linguistic restrictions in Iran.