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First opposition protest since the war held in Azerbaijan

6 October 2021
Photo via Popular Front.

Around a dozen people have protested outside the prison hospital in Baku demanding the release of a member of the Popular Front Party who is on hunger strike.

Tuesday’s protest was broken up by police soon after it began, with at least 11 people, including journalists, detained.

The protest was the first demonstration organised by an Azerbaijani opposition party since the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

The protesters were demanding the release of Niyamaddin Ahmadov, a member of the Popular Front Party and bodyguard of the party chair Ali Karimli. Ahmadov entered his 14th day of hunger strike on Wednesday.

Niyamaddin was arrested in April 2020 along with 10 other members of the party, and was accused of violating coronavirus restrictions. He has since been charged with terror offences and faces between 8–12 years in prison if convicted.

Protesters chanted ‘Freedom for political prisoners!’ and held placards with photos of other prisoners.

Soon after the demonstration began police confronted protesters demanding they disperse due to coronavirus restrictions.

Soon after, police officers began detaining protesters and journalists, taking them to the Khazar District Police Station.

Most of those detained were released the same day while two members of the Popular Front Party, Fuad Ahmadli and Farid Naghibayli, were held until Wednesday and fined ₼70 ($41) for ‘violating public order.

Zarifa Novruz, a journalist from Mikroskop, who was detained during the protest later said that despite identifying himself as a journalist the police dragged him into their car.

‘I repeatedly said that I was a journalist, they took my phone from me. Even if you look closely at the live broadcast, you can see that my phone was knocked to the ground, and seconds later, the video ended’, he said. 

‘I saw in the police car that my colleague Aysel Umudova was also ruthlessly put in the car and her glasses were broken.’

‘The department asked me to unlock my phone and delete any videos related to today’s action’, Novruz said. ‘Of course I didn't. Although we remained in the station for about an hour and a half, we were eventually released.’

‘Thank you very much, police. I made it out alive, and not dead’, Aysel Umudova, one of the journalists detained, later wrote on social media.

‘Officers of the Khazar District Police Department broke my glasses. They dragged me and other journalists to the police car. They injured my arm and threw me face first onto the police car’, she wrote.

‘Although I told the “barbaric” police employees that I was working, they ignored me. They took my phone from me and threatened to break into it’, she added.

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