BAKU -- Police in the Azerbaijani capital have violently dispersed protesters demanding the immediate release of hunger-striking opposition politician Saleh Rustamli.
At least 20 demonstrators were detained by officers during the December 15 rally in Baku, including Tofiq Yaqublu, a leading member of the opposition Musavat party, RFE/RL correspondents reported from the scene.
Yaqublu and dozens of protesters were detained during a similar rally in Baku on December 1. The opposition politician and vocal government critic was later released, but he sustained multiple injuries while in police custody.
Five of those detained were sentenced to up to 30 days in jail on charges of violating pandemic regulations.
Rustamli, a member of the opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan Party (AXCP), has been on a hunger strike for 39 days to demand his release from prison.
Rustamli, who has lived in Russia since 1998, was arrested in 2018 when he visited Azerbaijan. He was subsequently sentenced to more than seven years in prison after a court found him guilty of money laundering for the alleged transfer of $420,000 to a bank account connected to the AXCP.
Rustamli has rejected all the charges against him, calling them politically motivated.
Human rights groups in Azerbaijan have recognized him as a political prisoner.
A leading member of the AXCP, Mammad Ibrahim, said on December 14 that seven opposition activists had joined Rustamli's hunger strike to demand that he be freed.