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Scores Of Opposition Leaders, Activists Detained Ahead Of Election Protest In Baku


Police detain an activist in Baku ahead of the protest.
Police detain an activist in Baku ahead of the protest.

BAKU -- Police in Azerbaijan have detained three opposition party leaders and more than 100 activists ahead of a protest in Baku against the results of last week's parliamentary elections that were criticized by international observers.

Many of those detainees were released later on February 16.

The ruling Yeni Azerbaijan (New Azerbaijan) party won 72 out of 125 seats in the single-chamber legislature on February 9, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC). Nearly all other seats went to small parties and independents loyal to President Ilham Aliyev.

Azerbaijani Police Disperse Postelection Protest
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WATCH: Azerbaijani Police Disperse Postelection Protest

Before the February 16 unauthorized protest was scheduled to start, police detained either at their homes or outside their party headquarters the leader of the REAL party, Ilgar Mamedly, the leader of the Musavat Party, Arif Hajili, and the head of the D18 opposition movement, Ruslan Izzatly.

They were later released outside of Baku. Izzatly said he will sue the Interior Ministry.

Riot police surrounded the CEC building where the rally had been planned and put anyone arriving to take part in the protest on buses.

After his release, Hajili said some of those detained were "taken in police vans to remote, deserted places 200-300 kilometers from Baku and abandoned there."

Mehman Huseynov, who ran as a candidate in the municipal elections, was among those taken away from the capital. He posted on Facebook a picture of himself sitting on the side of a road in a deserted area.

On February 11, police in Baku detained more than 20 opposition and independent candidates who protested the results of the elections in front of the CEC building.

Riot police gathered ahead of the protest.
Riot police gathered ahead of the protest.

In a preliminary report, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe cited widespread violations in the vote count, instances of ballot stuffing and multiple voting, as well as pressure on voters, candidates, and observers. The observers also noted that the number of registered voters in more than half of the 125 constituencies deviated by more than allowed by the Election Code.

The 58-year-old Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since shortly before his father's death 17 years ago, called the elections in December, nine months before it was formally due, amid public discontent over a slowing economy.

Since the South Caucasus country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, its elections have repeatedly been deemed as falling short of democratic standards by international observers from the OSCE and Council of Europe.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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