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Jailed Azerbaijani Opposition Leader's Movement Declares Itself A Party


Ilqar Mammadov

Azerbaijan's Republican Alternative (REAL), an opposition movement whose leader is in prison, says it is now a political party but will not seek formal registration by the state.

A member of REAL's Council, Natiq Cafarli, told RFE/RL on April 9 that the decision to turn the movement into a political party was made at an online meeting held over the weekend.

The announcement comes ahead of an April 11 snap presidential election that appears certain to be won by authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003.

Cafarli said REAL's main goal is to turn Azerbaijan from a presidential to a parliamentary republic and "reinstate republican values in the country."

He said that REAL does not plan to apply to the Justice Ministry for registration as a party because it is clear that it will be refused. There was no immediate comment from the ministry.

REAL leader Ilqar Mammadov was elected as the new party's chairman, Cafarli said.

Mammadov was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014 after being convicted of organizing and taking part in mass protests in the northern town of Ismayilli to demand the resignation of a provincial leader.

Human rights organizations and Western governments have demanded that Baku release Mammadov, calling his imprisonment politically motivated.

Late last year, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe launched a procedure to sanction Azerbaijan for failing to implement a 2014 European Court of Human Rights ruling which found Baku had violated Mammadov's human rights.

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