Azerbaijani opposition forms new movement

Azerbaijani opposition forms new movement

Azerbaijani opposition forms new movement

Police detain opposition activists who demand the resignation of President Aliyev. Recent jailing of an opposition journalist caused outrage over freedom of speech. AFP photo

Azerbaijani opposition parties and non-governmental organizations (NGO) have kicked off efforts to form a new political coalition ahead of the upcoming October presidential elections. 

Leaders of the opposing political parties, NGOs, ambassadors from the United States, France and Germany, as well as the representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union attended the representation ceremony of “El” [Public in Azerbaijani] Movement in Baku on March 12.

Eldar Namazov, who has been elected as chairman of the Movement’s Board, said that they aim to fill the gap in Azerbaijan’s political field, adding that they started campaigns in 35 cities, according to Anatolia news agency. The movement is expected to participate in presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place in October, with a single candidate. 

Meanwhile, rights groups yesterday condemned Azerbaijani authorities for the jailing of an opposition journalist, a move they say highlights growing pressure on freedom of speech in the ex-Soviet state. A court in Baku sentenced the editor of the opposition daily Khural on March 12, Avaz Zeynally, to nine years in prison on charges of extortion and tax evasion, Agence France-Presse reported.

Case is ‘political’

Zeynally was jailed after a ruling party lawmaker accused the journalist of demanding a bribe from her. The lawmaker, Gular Akhmedova, was later herself implicated in fraud and accused of offering a seat in Parliament to a prominent academic in return for $1 million. Zeynally has rejected the accusation, claiming he has been imprisoned over his critical reporting.

His jailing “effectively criminalizes independent and critical journalism in Azerbaijan,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said, adding that journalists face repression as Azerbaijan moves away from its press freedom commitments. Rights activists at home also denounced the verdict as politically motivated.