Thu, 21 Nov 2019

Police in Baku have detained dozens of opposition activists ahead of a planned protest in the Azerbaijani capital on October 19.

According to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, the leader of Azerbaijan's opposition Popular Front Party, Ali Kerimli, was among those detained in Baku.

Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova said police also blocked three subway stations in an apparent attempt to thwart protesters from reaching the rally site. She also said Internet service had been blocked in most of the city.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Azerbaijani authorities for refusing to allow the opposition to peacefully gather.

"Azerbaijan authorities continue to display blatant contempt for freedom of assembly in the country," said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at HRW, in a comment on Twitter.

The latest crackdown comes after police detained several people at a protest on October 8 in Baku in support of the right to free assembly organized by the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), an umbrella group of Azerbaijani opposition forces.

President Ilham Aliyev has ruled the South Caucasus country of nearly 10 million since shortly before the death of his father in 2003.

Aliyev has overseen the systematic dismantling of the country' civil society. Dozens of activists, journalists, and human rights activists have been arrested and convicted on what critics say are bogus, politically motivated, charges. Independent media outlets have also been shut down.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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