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Police Warn Anticorruption Activists On Eve Of Baku Protest

Major General Sahlab Baghirov told reporters that the Baku police had invited the rally organizers to their city department. (file photo)

Baku's city police say they have warned opposition activists who plan to protest in the Azerbaijani capital that authorities will crack down on anyone breaking the agreed terms of the rally.

“We’ve invited the rally organizers to the Baku city police department,” Major General Sahlab Baghirov told the APA news agency on September 22, a day before the rally.

"We won’t allow any slogans to be chanted, except the ones noted in their letter to the Baku City Executive Authority," Baghirov said. "We’ll prevent any attempt aiming to cause unrest or confrontation. Otherwise the rally organizers and the guilty will be punished in accordance with the law.”

The protest, which has been sanctioned by the municipal government, was organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces -- an umbrella organization bringing together some of Azerbaijan's opposition forces.

The demonstrators plan to protest corruption by state officials. The protest comes after an investigative report by a group of international journalists and anticorruption activists called The Azerbaijani Laundromat named state officials allegedly tied to money laundering operations.

The report alleges that the scheme was “a complex money-laundering operation and slush fund that handled $2.9 billion over a two-year period through four shell companies" registered in the United Kingdom.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's press secretary, Azer Gasimov, has called the report "absurd."

Activists accuse Azerbaijan’s government of repressing journalists, civil society activists, and human rights workers.

They have urged Western governments to do more to confront authorities in Baku.

The oil-rich South Caucasus nation has been facing growing social and economic problems stemming from falling world oil prices in recent years.