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Azerbaijani Police Disperse Rally, Detain Activists

A Musavat Party member is arrested for protesting outside the Baku city hall.
Azerbaijani police have broken up an opposition rally against restrictions on freedom of assembly in the capital city and briefly detained demonstrators, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Baku deputy police chief Yashar Aliyev told journalists the rally was dispersed because it was not sanctioned by city officials.

He said "several people" were arrested due to "disobedience toward police." Opposition Musavat Party officials said more than 30 people were detained.

The protesters, who were primarily from the Musavat Party, gathered at a subway station near Baku's city hall and demanded the right to assemble where they wish.

Police officers and plainclothes police stood in their way and prevented them from proceeding to city hall, which is about 100 meters away.

The protesters chanted "freedom" and "equality" before police forcibly dispersed them. The detained activists continued chanting as they were driven away in minibuses and police cars. They were released a short time later.

Baku city hall has rejected requests for rallies in the city center for the past three years.

Instead, authorities designate venues for public gatherings on the city's outskirts, but opposition parties have said they are too inaccessible.