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Azerbaijani Opposition Politician 'Beat Himself' In Police Custody, Prosecutor Says

At the time of his arrest, an Interior Ministry spokesman called Tofiq Yaqublu's claim that he was beaten by the police "groundless."

BAKU -- Prosecutors in Azerbaijan have refused to launch a probe into the severe beating of leading opposition politician Tofiq Yaqublu while in detention last month.

The prosecutor's office in Baku's Sabail district ruled on January 17 that Yaqublu "suffered from self-inflicted injuries."

According to investigator Araz Akbarov, the politician hit a police car door with his head while he was being detained during unsanctioned rallies in the capital on December 1, and later punched himself in the police station he had been taken to.

Yaqublu, a member of the Coordination Center of Azerbaijan's Democratic Forces' National Council and a leading member of the opposition Musavat Party, told RFE/RL that he will appeal the decision.

On December 1, he was rushed to a hospital after being released from custody with deep bruises on his face and body.

At the time, Interior Ministry spokesman Elsad Haciyev called Yaqublu's claim that he was beaten by the police "groundless."

Human Rights Watch called on the Azerbaijani authorities to conduct a "prompt, impartial, and thorough" investigation into the "horrific mistreatment" of the government critic.

Opponents of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Western countries, and international human rights groups say the government has persistently persecuted critics, political foes, independent media, and civic activists.

Aliyev, who has ruled the country of almost 10 million people since shortly before the death of his father and predecessor, Heydar Aliyev, in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.