Opposition leaders and dozens of activists detained in Baku

On Saturday, 17 November, two opposition leaders and dozens of their supporters were detained ahead of an attempted march to commemorate National Revival Day.

Jamil Hasanli, leader of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), was released the same day, but the head of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), Ali Karimli, remains in custody. He was charged under two articles of the Administrative Offense Code relating to rules on public assembly and awaits his court hearing scheduled for 19 November.

Together with 150 of their supporters, Hasanli and Karimli gathered on Saturday afternoon to march through the streets of Baku, following the same route as hundreds of protestors on 17 November 1988. This rally, today celebrated as National Revival Day, thirty years ago was the spark of two-weeks long mass protests for the protection of Azerbaijan’s rights in the matter of Nagorno-Karabakh on Baku’s main Azadliq square, eventually dispersed by Soviet troops.

The two opposition leaders were detained when their group was trying to visit the Alley of Martyrs, a cemetery and memorial site dedicated to victims of Soviet repressions during the Azerbaijani independence movement and those who died in the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

More than 50 people were taken by police and brought to the Sabail district police department. A video from the scene shows Ali Karimli and other activists inside a bus surrounded by police officers, and people calling for President Ilham Aliyev to resign.

Most of the people detained were released again in the course of the evening, among them Jamil Hasanli. The fate of Ali Karimli and at least seven others, including his bodyguard, two journalists and five other party members, who were rumored to have been taken to the Sabail District Court, was initially unclear.

On 18 November, the Baku Police Department issued a statement saying that the ‘unauthorized rally had violated public order’, and that Karimli was charged under Articles 513.1 and 513.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (detailing the rules on public assembly), each punishable by fines up to ₼3,000 ($1,760), two hundred hours of community service, or two months of arrest.

The NCDF has reportedly announced its intention of visiting the Alley of Martyrs the day before the planned march but found the area had been closed down by authorities.    

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