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Azerbaijani Opposition Rallies In Baku

Opposition leader Ali Kerimli addressing a crowd of Azerbaijani protesters at a Baku stadium on September 22.
Opposition leader Ali Kerimli addressing a crowd of Azerbaijani protesters at a Baku stadium on September 22.
Azerbaijan's main opposition coalition has held a rally in Baku to boost support ahead of next month's presidential election.

Correspondents say several thousand supporters of the National Council of Democratic Forces gathered on September 22 at a stadium in the Yasamal district of the capital.

Ali Kerimli, chairman of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, called the October 9 vote a "battle for our homeland, for our future, for our children, and for the entire nation."

READ MORE: Coverage From RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service (In Azeri)

Hasan Karimov, the deputy head of the Popular Front, said police prevented some supporters from attending the rally, blocking entryways and limiting access to the stadium.

The Azerbaijani government has made no official comment.

The rally concluded with participants putting a number of demands on the government, including the release of political prisoners, and creating normal conditions for presidential candidates to meet with potential voters.

Demonstrators also called for the publication of a complete voters' list, and said incumbent President Ilham Aliyev must stop using government resources to promote his own election goals.

Some eight candidates are expected to face off against Aliyev, who has held power since succeeding his father in 2003, and is widely expected to win a third term.

The main opposition candidate is Camil Hasanli, the fallback choice for the National Council of Democratic Forces, a coalition grouping the main opposition parties.

Hasanli is running instead of the council's first choice, Oscar-winning screenwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov, who was disqualified last month by the election commission because he has dual Russian-Azerbaijani citizenship.

Speaking at the rally, Hasanli called on supporters to help put Azerbaijan on a democratic path.

"Nobody can turn our country into North Korea!" he said. "Nobody can insult our democracy by 'planting' monuments! Nobody can erase our history of democracy!"

With reporting by Interfax

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