Leader of Azerbaijani Popular Front Party, Ali Kerimli: "They could arrest me at any moment"
In an interview with Voice of America, the leader of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP), Ali Kerimli, commented on rumors that he may be soon arrested:
"My arrest is a very real possibility. The pro-government media has been seriously and methodically nibbling away at me for a long time now. They are arrested people close to me, in my immediate vicinity. So it's very possible, and perhaps it would be better - so that they wouldn't arrest anymore of these innocent people. If their problem is me, then I'm ready. Let them fabricate any excuse or accusation they need. I've long considered the fact that I may be arrested, if not killed."
When asked what the accusations against him might look like, Kerimli said that the government press had already announced him as the 'head Gulenist' in Azerbaijan, and thus is it would be reasonable to expect his arrest to be based off similar allegations.
"There is no limit to what you can expect from people who announced Faiq Amirli to be the imam of the Gulenists." he said.
"The government of Azerbaijan must understand, that the arrests of people like myself, activists from the APFP, and other sociopolitical figures will not solve their problems. They have incorrectly managed the country, and now the social - economic crisis has seized them by the neck, and social pressure and unrest is going to rest in the country. The authorities think that if social protests are going to start, its best to remove those individuals from the picture who might be able to direct and give strength to those protests. They don't understand, that repression only strengthens social pressure and unrest..." said Kerimli.
Kerimli further urged the powers to change their approach. "The situation in Azerbaijan is such that things will only change if serious and large - scale reforms are undertaken. If the government understands this, then gradually, step by step, political and economic reforms may save the country from the crisis.
If they decide, however, to go they way of, say, Khosni Mubarak [former president of Egypt] and other dictators, then they will eventually become the victims of their own policies. In world history there are no examples of nations eternally suffering the despotism of their rulers. Every nation has its limit.
If the authorities put an end to all democratic possibilities for change in the country, they will end up face to face with an enraged and deprived public. This could result in tragic consequences for Azerbaijan.
"I don't want this at all. Our activities are directed towards the possibility of peaceful change in the country. But the authorities want to make sure this doesn't happen. They want to pose the question to the public thus: either suffer the whimsical desires of a spoiled and authoritarian, dynastic government, or face the possibility of sociopolitical explosion, and mayhem. It's not hard to imagine what this might look like."
Many in Azerbaijani civil society connect the recent wave of arrests in Azerbaijan to the upcoming constitutional referendum in September, which proposes to extend the presidential term limit from 5 to 7 years, and to lower the age limit for a presidential candidate from 35 years to 25.
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