5,000 rally in Azerbaijan

5,000 rally in Azerbaijan

BAKU - Agence France-Presse

Around 5,000 Azerbaijanis demanding greater freedoms gathered yesterday at a rare authorized rally near the site of next month’s Eurovision song contest in the oil-rich nation’s capital Baku.

“We demand fundamental reforms, or the people might rise against the ruling regime,” Popular Front party leader Ali Kerimly told the rally. Organized by the Public Chamber opposition coalition, yesterday’s rally was held in Baku’s Bailovo district -- venue of the May 22-26 Eurovision song contest -- as protests are banned in central Baku. President Ilham Aliyev, remains popular despite opposition allegations of election fraud and civil rights infringements. Aliyev succeeded his father Haidar in 2003 and promotes economic growth over political plurality.