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Islamic Party Activists' Trial Starts In Azerbaijan

Movsum Samadov
Movsum Samadov
BAKU -- Islamic Party of Azerbaijan leader Movsum Samedov and six party activists went on trial today in Baku's Court for Serious Crimes, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Samedov and his associates are charged with creating an organized criminal group, illegal possession of weapons, and attempting to seize power illegally.

They reject the charges and say they are being persecuted for political reasons, specifically for criticizing the government and protesting the ban on girls from wearing head scarves in schools.

The seven were arrested in January after Samedov called on Azerbaijanis to put an end to what he called "the oppressive regime in the country."

An RFE/RL correspondent reports that the judge rejected a request by Samedov's lawyer, Anar Qasimov, to allow photographs and videotaping of the court proceedings.

The defendants and their supporters present in the court room repeatedly cited verses from the Koran, chanted "Allah Akbar!" (God is great!), and cursed the judge when he rejected a request from one of the defense lawyers.

The judge asked bailiffs to remove from the courtroom several of the defendants' supporters, including women wearing head scarves.

Read more in Azeri here
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