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Azerbaijani Academic Demoted After Criticizing Activist's Jailing

Azerbaijani academic Rafiq Aliyev
Azerbaijani academic Rafiq Aliyev
BAKU -- A professor at Azerbaijan's Oil Academy has been demoted after criticizing the imprisonment of a youth activist who called for antigovernment protests via Facebook, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Baxtiyar Haciyev (aka Bakhtiyar Hajiyev), a Harvard graduate and former parliamentary candidate, was jailed in May for two years for evading military service in a case his supporters regard as retaliation for his use of social media to criticize the Azerbaijani authorities.

Professor Rafiq Aliyev spoke out about Haciyev's case in comments to RFE/RL on November 1.

He said he couldn't comprehend how Haciyev could have been found guilty and imprisoned under Azerbaijani law. He said those laws should be applied equally to all citizens.

Within days, Aliyev, the author of some 70 books, was removed from his post as chair of robotized control systems for allegedly violating the Labor Code by "not carrying out his commitments in accordance with his employment contract." He remains at the academy.

Forum of Intelligentsia of Azerbaijan (FIA) head Eldar Namazov told RFE/RL on November 5 that Aliyev's demotion was connected with his sociopolitical activity and was ordered by someone high up in the government.

"I'm sure the order to dismiss Rafiq Aliyev was not the Oil Academy rector's personal decision. Such a decision with regard to a world-famous scientist is a disgrace to the academy. Certain pressure was exerted on the academy leadership," Namazov said.

Namazov said he believed a campaign was under way to pressure the Azerbaijani intelligentsia as a whole.

The Education Ministry has not yet commented on Aliyev's demotion. Aliyev himself has declined to comment.

The FIA convened a roundtable discussion on November 4 at which it called for dialogue between the authorities and the public in order to defuse rising tensions.

Addressing that gathering, Aliyev expressed concern at the possibility of a civil confrontation, the Russian website reported.

Read in Azeri here