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Azerbaijani Activists To Appeal To French President About Abuses

Ell & Nikki
Ell & Nikki
BAKU -- Azerbaijani human rights activists plan to present an appeal to French President Nicolas Sarkozy about rights abuses in Azerbaijan when he visits Baku next month, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The appeal is part of the activists' recently launched campaign "Free Music in a Nonfree Country," which aims to focus the attention of participants in next year's Eurovision song contest on the poor human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

Rasul Jafarov, one of the campaign organizers, told RFE/RL that international organizations from Germany, Poland, Belarus, Norway, the Netherlands, and France support their initiative.

He said the nongovernmental organization Reporters Without Borders is helping them draft the appeal.

Rights activist Anar Mammadli said they have also sent a letter to first lady Mehriban Aliyeva, who chairs Azerbaijan's Eurovision Committee, listing the reforms they say should be implemented before the contest is held in May.

Mammadli says they have informed the Eurovision contest organizers about their campaign. He said the organizers responded with a reminder that the contest is intended to be nonpolitical, but that their demands are political.

Mammadli said because of that the organizers avoid any contact with his group. He said some Eurovision broadcasters, in contrast, have expressed support for their campaign.

Azerbaijan automatically acquired the right to host the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in Baku when the Azerbaijani duo Ell & Nikki won this year's contest in Germany.

The Azerbaijani government is routinely cited by international rights organizations as repressing basic civil and human rights and of holding undemocratic elections.

Read more in Azeri here