BAKU -- Several senior members of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (AIP) went on trial in Baku today on terrorism-related charges, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
AIP Chairman Movsum Samadov, Deputy Chairman Vaqif Abdullayev, and Rufulla Akhundzadeh, who heads the party's Astara branch, are accused of plotting a terrorist act together with a group, plotting a terrorist attack using weapons, and illegal weapons possession.
Samadov told the court today that the charges are unfounded and they should all be released.
He was detained on January 7 on charges of illegal weapons possession, incitement to terrorism, and seeking to overthrow the government.
Human rights defenders said his detention was linked to a January 2 speech in which he criticized a government ban on girls wearing head scarves in secondary schools.
In that speech, Samadov also referred to an article published last year in "The Washington Post" that alleged that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev owns millions of dollars worth of property in Dubai.
The AIP was established in 1991 and officially registered one year later. But its registration was annulled in 1995 and it has not been allowed to reregister.
The party claims to have thousands of members.