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Azerbaijani Opposition Under Attack As Campaigning Begins

BAKU -- Two high-ranking officials from the Musavat opposition party have been attacked after force was used to disperse a party meeting in the central city of Barda, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Musavat Deputy Chairman and parliamentarian Arif Hajili told RFE/RL that he and parliament deputy Ikram Israfilov were attacked by local members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijani Party on October 8 during a campaign event.

The local branch of Yeni Azerbaijani denied participating in any attack.

The incident occurred two days after the beginning of campaigning for local elections.

Barda city official Mazahir Gasimov described the incident as a "mob's reaction," saying that the Musavat party "irritated the population" when they were in power from 1992-1993.

Because "we live in a democratic society," Gasimov said, people wonder why it is necessary for opposition parties to continue their activities.

After the attack, Musavat tried to move its meeting to the nearby town of Yevlakh but its supporters were confronted by a road blockade set up by police.

Mustafa Hajibeyli, a journalist who witnessed the confrontation with police, said there were 10 police cars surrounding the group. He said one police car followed them all the way back to Barda.

In Baku, Internal Affairs Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov told RFE/RL that he was unaware of the incident and said that even if the event took place it would be "absolutely legal."

He added that Musavat tried to hold an "unsanctioned meeting" in Yevlakh and "it is a duty of law-enforcement agencies to prevent illegal actions."