Crowds march in the demonstration held in support of military forces in Baku on 14 July.


Caption: Crowds march in the demonstration held in support of military forces in Baku on 14 July.

European MPs concerned over persecution of political opponents in Azerbaijan

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament has expressed concerns over reports of the continued harassment of political opponents in Azerbaijan.

Kati Piri, the group's vice-president, voiced concern over “systemic patterns of intimidation, harassment and arrests of the opposition members incited by President Aliyev”.

“We are alarmed by credible reports of severe torture inflicted by Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies on Fuad Gahramanli, the deputy chair of the opposition People’s Front (Party) of Azerbaijan (PFPA),” Piri said in her statement issued on Sunday.

Gahramanli is one of the top members of the main opposition PFPA arrested by the government on what Piri called “flimsy charges of preparing a coup.”

Piri's statement came days after President Aliyev blamed the PFPA for provoking the demonstrators held in support of the army amid an escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with neighboring Armenia.

“Some opposition groups, including representatives of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, infiltrated the crowd and tried to incite people to take part in illegal actions,” Aliyev said on 15 July, after which a new wave of arrests of opposition members began.

According to the PFPA figures, 45 members of the party have been detained so far. Two of them, top members Mammad Ibrahim and Guad Gahramanli, are accused of attempting to seize power by force.

Political opposition is often marginalized in Azerbaijan, but the government has intensified its crackdown using emergency decrees enacted at the start of the coronavirus lockdown to limit civil and political rights in the country. Journalists and activists have been intimidated and detained in recent weeks over their comments on social media.

Calling for sanctions against human rights violations in Azerbaijan, Piri said that the government is not upholding its international obligations by denying fundamental rights to individuals in opposition.

“It is unacceptable that President Aliyev is using the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent spike in military tensions with Armenia as an excuse to wipe out what remains of the political opposition in the country."

Considering the “gravity” of the situation in Azerbaijan, the group called on the European Union High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, to take initiative to impose sanctions on officials responsible for the violent repression of the political opposition and civil society in Azerbaijan.

Amnesty International urges Azerbaijani government to end crackdown on opponents

Amnesty International also expressed concerns about the Azerbaijani authorities' continuing crackdown on the political opposition, saying the recent waves of the arrests “may lead to the extinction of the already severely fragmented independent political opposition” in the country.

“This round of persecution fits squarely within an increase in politically motivated prosecutions since March 2020,” the international watchdog organization said in its statement released on 5 August calling for the government to put an end to “politically motivated persecutions” against political opponents and their supporters.

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