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Jailed Azerbaijani Activists Begin Hunger Strike

United opposition protesters in Baku demanded free elections on July 31.
United opposition protesters in Baku demanded free elections on July 31.
Ten opposition activists jailed for participating in an unsanctioned rally in central Baku on July 31 have declared a hunger strike, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Deputy Chairman Fuad Qahramanli told RFE/RL that a group of men wearing civilian clothes entered the activists' cell on August 2 and used abusive and insulting language. "The detainees have launched the hunger strike in protest," he added.

Qahramanli said he did not understand how the men managed to enter the jail cell, where the activists are serving between seven and 10 days of "administrative detention" for their roles in the protest on July 31.

Qahramanli said the incident "shows that the Azerbaijani authorities do not follow the simplest legal norms."

Interior Ministry official Ehsan Zahidov refuted the report about the incident. He told RFE/RL that only interrogators are allowed access to cells.

Some of the detained activists are members of the Popular Front or the Musavat Party. Ten other rally participants were released shortly after being detained.

The July 31 rally -- which was in support of the right to freedom of assembly -- was dispersed by police because it was unauthorized.

The Baku municipal council has designated locations on the city outskirts where demonstrations may be held, but the opposition insists it has a right to hold protests in the city center.