Police in Baku have broken up a small demonstration by animal rights activists angered by the killing of stray dogs.
Activists reported that six people were detained during the protest on Monday, with police not reporting the reasons for the detentions.
One of the protesters, Sanay Yaghmur, told OC Media that there were around 15 people at the demonstration and that police intervened as soon as it began. She said that one of the organisers, Nijat Ismayilov, was detained in his home by police officers two hours before the demonstration.
Other organisers, Kamran Mammadli and Elkhan Mirzayev, were detained during the protest, she said.
Ismayilov told OC Media that he was held in the police station for 6 hours.
‘I was picked up from my apartment at 12:00. According to the police, it was for organising an unauthorised gathering on social networks. I received a warning. I was not pressured in the department’, said Ismayilov.
The Sabunchu District Police Department’s 13th police station confirmed that Ismayilov was detained and then released without charge, but declined to give a reason why.
Ismayilov previously reported being summoned to a police station several times with officers demanding he not organise any protests.
He said at the time that one officer had threatened him. ‘I told him about the seriousness of the case, the illegal shooting of dogs, the TOPLAN project being corrupt, and the brutal treatment of dogs by the executive authorities. He said I would be arrested if I write a call-up status and take the protest to the streets’, wrote Ismayilov.
Killing of stray dogs
Monday’s protest was organised by the newly formed TOPLAN-ti (‘assembly’) group. Their name refers to Baku City Centre for the Care of Stray Dogs (TOPLAN) which is responsible for caring for stray animals in the capital. TOPLAN has been supported by Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of president Ilham Aliyev.
According to the activists, widespread reports have emerged online documenting the illegal shootings of stray dogs. They accuse the local authorities and TOPLAN of the shootings.
The activists’ primary demand was to end TOPLAN’s activities and the shooting of dogs.
‘We demand the implementation of the requirements of the European Convention for the Protection of Pets, to which the Republic of Azerbaijan acceded in 2007, and the prosecution of those who kill dogs, as well as those who give instructions to do so’, says the description of the protest event on Facebook.
The group dismissed claims that this was being done to prevent a rabies epidemic, insisting none of the killed dogs had been diagnosed with rabies.
The TOPLAN Centre for the Care of Stray Dogs did not respond to a request for comment.