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 Azerbaijan 

"Cleanup of the Territory": The Govenrment's Plan for the "Freeest and Most Democratic Elections" 
Statement of Institute for Peace and Democracy 

Baku, Azerbaijan 
May 16th 2008 

Ramiz Mekhtiyev, the Chief of the Presidential Administration, declared that the "freest and most democratic elections would be held in Azerbaijan in October this year and the people will elect Ilham Aliyev." Government authorities will carry out the following for conducting  "the freeest and most democratic elections": 
  
Restrain freedom of speech and carry out the "cleanup of  the territory" of uncontrolled mass media and independent journalism. This drawn-out operation actually began on March 2, 2005 after the assassination of Elmar Huseynov, the editor of Monitor magazine, and continues to the present through various means of  reppression: depriving journalists of freedom and sentencing them to long-periods of imprisonment on the basis of false accusations; assaulting journalists; torturing journalists at Offices of the Public Prosecutor; falsifying investigations and carrying out smear campaigns to discredit journalists in the electronic media, which is fully subordinate to the authorities.

Limit the activities of civil society organizations: on May 14, the court ruled in favor of the petition of the Ministry of Justice to void the registration of the "Election Monitoring Centre," an important NGO that has a a lot of experience in monitoring elections with branches and representatives in all provinces.  
Deprive Azerbaijan's citizens of the constitutional right of freedom of assembly. The last demonstration that was allowed by authorities was held in Baku  on November 26, 2005 (despite permission being granted to hold the rally, it was brutally dispersed by the police --- in violation of the " Law On Police" and other laws of the Azerbaijani  Republic --- resulting in numerous injuries, particularly among children and women). None of numerous requests by political parties, civil society organizations, mass media for public assemblies in Baku or district capitals, was approved. Any attempts to hold an unapproved meeting were brutally suppressed and participants arraigned and punished by administrative order. 

Turn the judicial system into an institution of repression against opposition representatives and other dissenters. As a result, the number of political prisoners keeps increasing at the expense of activists of political parties and journalists. The latest judgments include: opposition activist Mussa Ragim Manafoglu, sentenced to a 5 year imprisonment in 2007 on the basis of a false accusation of resisting the police; journalist-satirist Sakit Zakhidov was sentenced to 3 years of  imprisonment in 2006; editor and publisher Eynulla Fatullayev was given 8 years' imprisonment in 2007; journalist Mushvig Huseynov 6 years' of  imprisonment in 2008; and editor Ganimat Zakhidov, 4 years' imprisonment in  
2008). 

Deprive all opposition parties their head-quarters in the capital (no opposition party has an office in the city's downtown), as well as in the provinces. 
Threaten students with expulsion from the Universities in case if their participation in opposition party activities. 

Include technical amendments to the Electoral code so that electoral commissions at all levels remain under the total control of the ruling  
party. The staff of the electoral commission remains the same as that which falsified the results of elections of the presidential elections of 2003 and the parliament  elections of 2005. 
 
In 2003 and 2005, opposition parties, independent mass media, and civil society were able to disseminate the following information to the broad public of Azerbaijan and the international community:  

(1) The facts of massive electoral falsification and outright forgery of voting results; 
(2) Iinformation about repressions toward members of electoral commissions who refused to sign falsified voting protocols; 
(3) Facts of violence and illegal actions by law-enforcement bodies and the courts.

Taking this experience into account, the authorities have decided to carry out a full "cleanup of the territory" of Azerbaijan so that citizens of the country have no chance  either to withstand the falsifications and violence or monitor these crimes and inform the world about it. 

Leyla Yunus 
Director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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