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Police, Demonstrators Clash In Baku


Police, Demonstrators Clash In Baku
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WATCH: Video of the protests and police response by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service (in Azeri)

BAKU -- Police have used rubber bullets, water hoses, and tear gas against demonstrators in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku.

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports that dozens of protesters were detained during the demonstration, which was held to protest the deaths and alleged abuse of conscripts in the Azerbaijani military.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Fountain Square amid a heavy police presence and despite roadblocks.

Protesters shouted, "Stop killing our soldiers! Stop our army from becoming a mortuary!"

"We have an antinational parliament, an antinational president," one protester told RFE/RL. "All the state organizations are antinational."

Estimates put the crowd at around 500 people.

Among the protesters were the families of soldiers who were killed or injured in suspected hazing incidents.

"We cannot tolerate this injustice," one protester said. "There is abuse, hazing in the military. Is that a genocide of our nation? They are killing our boys who are only 18 or 20 [years old]."

After the clashes, police ordered protesters and journalists to clear the square.

PHOTO GALLERY: Police break up Baku protests

On March 8, several activists were detained and three were charged with illegal drugs and weapons possession, in a move opposition figures say was aimed at heading off the demonstration.

The demonstration on March 10 was part of a series of unsanctioned protests triggered by the death of conscript Jeyhun Gubadov on January 7.

The Defense Ministry has said he died of a heart attack, but his family believes he was murdered.

After widespread complaints, an investigation was opened and four soldiers have since been arrested.

The Azerbaijan government has boosted military spending considerably in recent years to flex its muscle vis-a-vis neighbor Armenia.

The two countries fought a war in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic-Armenian region of Azerbaijan.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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