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HRW Condemns Azerbaijan’s Latest Crackdown On Opposition

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HRW Condemns Azerbaijan’s Latest Crackdown On Opposition

Human Rights Watch has condemned Azerbaijan’s latest crackdown on opposition leaders and activists that followed a July 14 unsanctioned rally in the capital, Baku.

Numerous people were detained on "spurious" charges that range from violating lockdown rules to an attempted coup, the rights group said in a statement on August 19.

“The latest wave of arrests in Azerbaijan follows the well-documented pattern of politically motivated arrests and prosecutions and threatens to decimate one of the country’s oldest opposition parties,” said Giorgi Gogia, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The authorities should immediately end the crackdown, release those unjustly imprisoned, and investigate law enforcement’s conduct.”

Thousands of people attended the rally to support the country’s armed forces amid an escalation of tensions with neighboring Armenia.

During a rally on the evening of July 14, a small number of people emerged from the crowd and briefly broke into the parliament building and damaged property before being removed by police.

Authorities claimed it was an attempt masterminded by the opposition to violently overthrow the government. Dozens of activists were rounded up by police in the following days.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (file photo) SEE ALSO:

Azerbaijan's Despotic Ruler Throws 'Tantrum' In Unprecedented Crackdown On Pro-Democracy Rivals

Local activists said the number of those detained was at least 80 people, including 17 members of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), one the country’s oldest opposition groups.

None of the detained APFP members was in the group that broke into the parliament, their lawyers said. Many were not even at the rally.

The arrests followed a speech by the country’s longtime president, Ilham Aliyev, who accused the APFP of instigating the violence.

He called the opposition “traitors,” “enemies,” and the “fifth column” and vowed to “resolve” the issue.

Following minor clashes between a small group of protesters and police outside the parliament, security forces dispersed the crowd, using tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets. Officials say at least seven officers were injured and 16 vehicles damaged.

Citing defense lawyers and official documents, HRW said that 16 of the detained APFP members face criminal charges of using violence against an official, violating public order, and destruction of property. One is accused of spreading an infectious disease.

Five detainees – Asif Yusifli, Mammad Ibrahim, Fuad Gahramanli, Bakhtiyar Imanov, and Ayaz Maharramli – are members of the party’s presidium, a decision-making body.

Gahramanli and Ibrahim face an additional charge of attempting to overthrow the government, punishable by up to 20 years or life in prison.

Authorities in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation have long been criticized for frequently seeking to silence dissent by jailing opposition activists, reporters, and civil society advocates on trumped-up charges.

On July 31, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's rapporteurs on Azerbaijan expressed “grave concern” about what they described as “the troubling pattern of arbitrary arrest and detention of government critics.”

In his July 15 speech, Aliyev emphasized that he would “not pay attention” to criticism from the Council of Europe and other international organizations about the crackdown.

HRW said that Azerbaijan’s international partners should not be intimidated by Aliyev’s belligerent speech and should speak up against the crackdown.

“They should urge the authorities in Azerbaijan to do the right thing: End the crackdown and release all those unjustly imprisoned,” Gogia said.

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The Conflict Between Armenia And Azerbaijan

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The poisoning of Alexey Navalny: Five key things to know

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What happened on the day Navalny fell ill?

On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13. 

He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a cup of tea. He was on the way to Moscow.

In the first half-hour of the flight, he fell ill and witnesses said he screamed in pain. He was later in a coma.

He was airlifted to Germany’s capital, a six-hour flight, to the Berlin Charite hospital.The plane made an emergency landing at Omsk. He received treatment in the Russian city, where doctors said he was too unwell to be moved, but two days later on August 22, a Saturday, they said his life was not in danger.

Was he poisoned? 

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, a claim several European countries support.

A laboratory in Germany said it had confirmation on September 2, followed by laboratories in France and Sweden on September 14.

Samples from Navalny have also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for testing.

Russia says there is no evidence to prove Navalny was poisoned, while its ally Belarus has also doubted the claim. The doctors in Omsk said they had not detected poisonous substances in Navalny’s body. 

US President Donald Trump has been criticised for towing Russia’s line, saying on September 4 – two days after Germany’s claim to have “unequivocal evidence” – that “we have not had any proof yet”.

How is Navalny’s condition now?

On September 7, more than two weeks after falling ill on the plane, Navalny’s doctors in Germany said he was out of a coma and that his condition was improving. His spokeswoman said, “Gradually, he will be switched off from a ventilator.”

On September 15, Navalny posted on Instagram that he was breathing alone. He has said he plans to return to Russia. 

If he was poisoned, who may have poisoned him and where?

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned at the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin – a claim the Kremlin has strongly denied. 

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh had initially said she believed Navalny’s tea at the airport was poisoned, but on September 17, his team said the nerve agent was detected on an empty water bottle from his hotel room in the Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned there and not at the airport. 

What effect has the alleged poisoning had?

The alleged attack has widened a rift between Europe and Russia, with Germany and France leading calls for a full investigation but stopping short of outrightly blaming the Russian government. 

MEPs have called for sanctions against Russia, saying on September 17, “The poison used, belonging to the ‘Novichok group’, can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, while the United Kingdom has summoned the Russian envoy over the incident.

For its part, Moscow rejects what it called the politicisation of the issue.

Significantly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which transfers Russian gas to Germany. Once again, the Kremlin has warned not to involve the Navalny case in any discussion about the pipeline, with Dmitry Peskov saying on September 16, “It should stop being mentioned in the context of any politicisation.”


A timeline of events surrounding the alleged poisoning attack on Navalny: 

August 20 – Navalny falls ill on flight; plane makes emergency landing in Omsk; his spokeswoman says he was poisoned, perhaps by the tea he drank at the airport

August 22 – Navalny airlifted to Berlin Charite hospital 

September 2 – Germany says it has ‘unequivocal evidence’ Navalny was poisoned, Russia responds by saying the claim is not backed by evidence

September 4 – US President Donald Trump says ‘we do not have any proof yet’

September 6 – Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, threatens action over gas pipeline project, saying, ‘I hope the Russians don’t force us to change our position on Nord Stream 2’

September 7 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma

September 11-13 – Russia holds local elections; Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities

September 15 – Navalny posts on Instagram that he is breathing alone

September 16 – Kremlin spokesman warns against politicising Navalny issue in discussions over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Germany

September 17 – Navalny’s team now suspects he was poisoned in his hotel room, not the airport, citing traces of nerve agent on an empty water bottle

September 17 – MEPs call for sanctions against Russia 

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Civilians Hit Hard After Renewed Fighting In Disputed Nagorno-Karabakh

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Dozens have been reported killed in fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the latest escalation between forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Baku and Yerevan have accused each other of deploying heavy artillery amid international calls for an end to the hostilities.
The clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh are the heaviest seen since 2016 and have reignited concern over stability in the South Caucasus region, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.

The long-simmering conflict erupted anew on September 27 into the deadliest bouts of fighting in four years in the ethnic Armenian separatist enclave inside Azerbaijan.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict emerged during the breakup of the Soviet Union, when the region and seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan were seized by Armenian-backed separatists who declared independence amid a 1988-94 conflict that killed at least 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Since a fragile, Russian-brokered truce in 1994, the region has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces that Azerbaijan says include troops supplied by Armenia.

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