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Azerbaijani State TV Airs Sex Video Of Opposition Editor

BAKU -- Two weeks before parliamentary elections, the pro-government television channel Lider has aired a secretly filmed video of an opposition newspaper editor and a woman having sex, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The video was first made public on October 12, when a user under the name of "Mohammad Azadi" posted and distributed it on social-media networks. Several local media outlets also received a DVD version of the video in the mail.

But the broadcast of parts of the video on October 25 was the first time a nationwide TV station aired it. It was labeled "The Naked Truth of the Opposition."

Azer Ahmedov, a technical editor of the opposition newspaper "Azadliq," admitted a few days after the video appeared online that he is in the video. Ahmedov, who is separated from his wife, then resigned from his job and reportedly went to Turkey.

In a commercial showed widely on Lider TV, viewers were told to watch the evening news show "Seda." It was during this program that the video of Ahmedov and a woman having sex was shown. The announcer says that what is happening in the video is a result of the "asymetric policy from the West."

While engaging in oral sex, the Lider TV moderator said "we have to show this to the Western world, especially to France, so they know that their methods are very close to our opposition."

The moderator added that the video was leaked to other opposition newspapers and was distributed publicly by a rival opposition group. "This shows how 'united' our opposition is," the moderator concluded.

Lider TV is known for its anti-opposition stance and, in the past, its commentators have labeled some opposition leaders and journalists as being "immoral" or "homosexuals."

Ganimat Zahidov, the chief editor of "Azadliq" who is also running for a parliament seat in the November 7 elections, told RFE/RL that the video was "a dirty move by the [Azerbaijani] power structures that has been used in the past against the political opponents of the regime."

One of the country's largest opposition newspapers, "Azadliq" is closely associated with Ali Kerimli, the chairman of the opposition Popular Front Party.

Mehman Aliyev, the head of the independent Turan news agency, told RFE/RL, "This is just the beginning. We have seen this kind of black PR in previous elections."

Fuad Agayev, a Baku-based independent lawyer, told RFE/RL, "The filming and distribution of this type of video is classified as an invasion of privacy and is illegal under Azerbaijani law. Both of the victims [in the video] can file a formal complaint."

A police spokesperson told RFE/RL police would investigate the case if Ahmedov decided to register a complaint.

"Azadliq" has in the past been the subject of government pressure. Chief editor Zahid and reporter Mirza Zakit have spent years in jail on hooliganism and drug-possession charges.

"Azadliq" investigative reporter Agil Khalil left the country after being stabbed in 2008. State run media later portrayed him as being "a homosexual."

TV and radio broadcasts in Azerbaijan are tightly controlled by the government. Discussion of sex in public is viewed as bad manners in the secular but predominantly Muslim nation.

Nushirevan Maharramli, the head of the National Council on TV and Radio, refused to comment on the decision of Lider TV to air the video.

"I haven't seen the show yet, I will talk after I see it," he told RFE/RL.