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Azerbaijani Activists: Free Political Prisoners

The strike was first launched by parents of two young activists detained at an opposition protest and jailed.
BAKU -- Eight Azerbaijani opposition activists are holding a hunger strike in Baku to demand freedom for the country's "political prisoners," RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Four activists joined on October 18 in the Azerbaijani capital with another group of four strikers who started fasting a few days earlier.

The strike was first launched by parents of two young activists detained at the opposition's April 2 protest and sentenced to jail terms for attempts to violate public order and resist government officials.

Arzuman Majidli, father of Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP) member Elnur Majidli (serving a two-year sentence), and Ibrahim Hajibeyli, father of Musavat member Rufat Hajibeyli (sentenced to 1 1/2 years), began the strike on October 14.

But the two fathers' health deteriorated after three days and they were replaced by four other activists.

The strike is being held at the opposition Musavat Party headquarters, where the activists have painted "Freedom to all political prisoners!" "We protest the imprisonment of our sons!" and "Eurovision without political prisoners!" on the walls.

Gozel Bayramli, the head of the APFP Women's Committee, is one of two women hunger strikers. She told RFE/RL that they would not give up their struggle.

"These people have been accused [and sentenced] for their political convictions," she said. "Their imprisonment seriously damages Azerbaijan's image. The authorities should think about ending repression against people because of their political convictions."

Fourteen activists have been sentenced, most of them to jail terms, for participating in the April protest.

The activists on hunger strike also are demanding the release of activists Ruslan Basirli, Cabbar Savalan, Baxtiyar Haciyev, and Vidadi Isgandarli.

Opposition activists and journalists have held similar protests before, but officials have generally ignored their demands.

Read more in Azeri here