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Archive for the ‘Caucasus Land of Azerbaijan’ Category

Azerbaijan: jailed dissident speaks out on games opening day

June 12, 2015

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — A journalist jailed in Azerbaijan has criticized the country for corruption and human rights violations on the day the first European Games get underway in the capital, Baku.

Khadija Ismayilova was imprisoned last year after investigating corruption allegedly involving President Ilham Aliyev. Activists say the jailing was part of a wider crackdown on opposition ahead of the games, the continent’s version of the Olympics.

“The truth is that Azerbaijan is in the midst of a human rights crisis. Things have never been worse,” says Ismayilova’s letter, released Thursday by the PEN organization. “As those at the top continue to profit from corruption, ordinary people are struggling to work, struggling to live, struggling for freedom.”

The organization said her letter was smuggled from prison in pieces. “I am carrying on my struggle here, from jail. My investigations into corruption continue, thanks to the help of dedicated colleagues,” wrote Ismayilova, who worked for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “I have been punished for speaking out from jail, placed into solitary confinement, and prevented from seeing my family and lawyers.”

Ismayilova was convicted of libel and accused of tax evasion and inciting a colleague to commit suicide. The cases have been dismissed by critics as an attempt to intimidate independent journalists. Protests against Azerbaijan’s human rights record took place in cities around the world Friday in the hours leading up to the opening ceremony for the European Games, the largest sports event ever held in the country.

In the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, where demonstrations against the government are subject to numerous restrictions, opposition groups did not announce any protests ahead of the opening ceremony.

16 dead, scores injured in apartment fire in Azerbaijan

May 19, 2015

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Azerbaijani officials say 16 people have died and more than 50 have been injured in a fire at an apartment building in Baku, the capital.

The massive fire quickly engulfed 16-story apartment building Tuesday and took hours to contain. Azerbaijan’s chief prosecutor, Zakir Garalov, said the bad quality of plastic paneling covering the building contributed to the fire and a criminal probe has been launched to determine the fire’s cause.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev has taken personal control of the investigation. A similar fire erupted in Baku earlier this month, but there were no injuries.

Azerbaijan’s station raided by police

December 26, 2014

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — A radio station funded by the U.S. government says its office in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku has been raided by prosecutors who claim to have a court decision to shut it down.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty quoted the director of its Azerbaijani service saying that the office has been locked down since early Friday morning by prosecutors and armed police. Two RFE journalists could not be contacted by The Associated Press.

The Prosecutor General’s Office told the AP the search was conducted to investigate a “grave crime” but would not elaborate. The station’s top reporter Khadija Ismayilova was jailed earlier this month pending a trial on charges of driving a man to suicide, which critics dismissed as an attempt to gag an influential journalist.

Azerbaijan jails investigative journalist

December 06, 2014

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Azerbaijan has detained a prominent investigative journalist whose reporting has often featured the business dealings of top politicians in the country.

A court in Baku, the capital, ordered the jailing on Friday of Khadija Ismayilova, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded by the United States government. She must remain behind bars pending a trial on charges of driving a man to suicide, a crime that carries up to seven years in prison.

The treatment of Ismayilova — who also has reported on alleged corruption and human rights abuses, including the persecution of opposition figures in Azerbaijan — has sparked widespread condemnation from rights groups abroad. Amnesty International condemned it as a “move to silence independent media voices in the country.”

Nenad Pejic, the editor-in-chief of Radio Free Europe, said: “The arrest and detention of Khadija Ismayilova is the latest attempt in a two-year campaign to silence a journalist who has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.”

Ismayilova has been targeted for her reporting before. In 2012, after a series of damaging articles on the ruling family’s role in lucrative construction projects, she was warned in a letter that her reputation could be compromised, and later a video of her having sex with her boyfriend was published online.

On Thursday, the Azerbaijan government released a lengthy memo criticizing the modern-day “colonialism” of the United States and accusing journalists at Radio Free Europe’s local service of working to promote foreign interests in the country. Azerbaijan has been a staunch military ally of the U.S. and contributed troops to missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to comment on the specific case, but said Friday that the United States is “deeply troubled by restrictions on civil society activities, including on journalists in Azerbaijan.”

Many activists and independent journalists in this energy-rich Caspian Sea nation have been jailed since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, including two rights activists in August.

AP correspondent Matthew Lee contributed from Washington.

Azerbaijan boosts army spending as Armenia tensions soar

Baku (AFP)

Nov 28, 2014

Azerbaijan’s parliament on Friday approved a 2015 budget that sharply boosted military spending in apparent response to rising tensions with neighbor Armenia over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region.

The oil-rich Caucasus country’s defense outlays will rise by 8.6 percent to more than 1.78 billion Azerbaijani manats ($2.3 billion, 1.8 billion euros).

The budget also expects the economy to expand by 3.6 percent this year and 4.4 percent in 2015.

Azerbaijan is locked in a long-simmering conflict with Armenia over Karabakh.

Ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan had seized control of the territory during a 1990s war that left some 30,000 dead, and no peace deal has yet been signed.

An unprecedented spat of violence has erupted this year with the arch-foes’ forces regularly exchanging fire across their border and along the Karabakh frontline, sparking fears of a major escalation in the conflict.

Baku, whose military spending exceeds Armenia’s entire state budget, has threatened to take back the region by force if negotiations fail to yield results. Armenia, which is heavily armed by Russia, says it could crush any offensive.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Azerbaijan_boosts_army_spending_as_Armenia_tensions_soar_999.html.

Azerbaijan downs helicopter in Nagorno-Karabakh

November 13, 2014

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — The armed forces of Azerbaijan shot down and destroyed an Armenian military helicopter in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Wednesday, the defense ministries of both countries said.

The incident threatened to set off another cycle of violence between the two South Caucasus neighbors over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but along with some surrounding territory has been under the control of Armenian soldiers and local Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire.

“This is an unprecedented escalation, and the consequences for the Azerbaijani side will be painful,” Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Ovannisian told The Associated Press. Azerbaijan said its forces shot down the Russian-made Mi-24 helicopter gunship after it tried to attack its positions.

Nagorno-Karabakh said the helicopter belonged to its armed forces and was on a training flight near the cease-fire line. All three crew members on board were killed, a high-ranking officer with the Nagorno-Karabakh forces told the AP. The officer was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

There have been sporadic clashes in the two decades since the cease-fire ended a six-year war, but tensions rose sharply over the summer and 19 soldiers were killed in multiple confrontations. Last month, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia met in Paris with French President Francois Hollande in an effort to ease tensions. But years of diplomatic efforts under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have made little visible progress in resolving the dispute.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry denounced the Azerbaijani action as a “criminal provocation.” ”The Azerbaijani side is grossly violating the commitments on the peaceful resolution of the conflict reached during the recent summits,” it said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department denounced the incident as well. “Today’s events are yet another reminder of the need to redouble efforts on a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including reducing tensions and respecting the cease-fire,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington and Associated Press writer Avet Demourian in Yerevan, Armenia, contributed to this report.

France hosts talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

October 27, 2014

PARIS (AP) — The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia restarted a dialogue Monday during a three-way meeting in Paris with French president Francois Hollande, in an effort to ease tensions in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of the southern Caucasus.

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev agreed Monday to exchange information on the persons who disappeared during the six-year separatist war that ended in 1994. The process will be conducted under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to a written statement released by the French presidency.

They also agreed to continue the dialogue at new meeting in September 2015 on the sidelines of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan but it and some surrounding territory have been under the control of Armenian soldiers and local Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire. Since then, there have been sporadic clashes, but last summer tensions rose sharply as 19 soldiers were killed in multiple confrontations.

Years of diplomatic efforts under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have made little visible progress in resolving the dispute. Earlier Monday, Hollande met separately with each leader.

During a one-to-one meeting with Aliyev, the French president evoked the situation of the prominent human right activist Leila Yunus, who is jailed in Azerbaijan. Yunus was arrested with her husband and charged with spying for Armenia last July.

Aliyev “has made commitments” on that matter, said a top French official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak publicly on the matter. He didn’t give details because of the sensitiveness of the issue.

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