“Two prominent journalists, Emin Milli and Khadija Ismayilova, were among up to 100 people detained in Baku,” The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade reports:
Ismayilova, who was awarded the International Women’s Media Foundation courage in journalism award in 2012, hosts a weekly programme on Radio Free Europe where she reports on corruption and the business dealings of the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev.
“I approached police at demo and asked them to join us! They were thinking for a while. Then Arrested me. Writing from police station,” tweeted Milli.The former political prisoner and celebrated “donkey blogger,” Milli was reportedly sentenced to 15 days in jail for participating in an unsanctioned protest.
“We gathered to condemn illegal use of force against peaceful protesters,” Ismayilova, told AFP.
“Just as Aliyev…was allegedly negotiating about bringing Davos to Baku, a Facebook-organized rally in the city to show support for rioting residents of the northwestern town of Ismayili risked stealing the show,” according to EurasiaNet’s Giorgi Lomsadze.
“With such high aims as Davos (and the European Olympics) in mind, the Azerbaijani government has very little patience these days for protesters.”
The Ismailli riot “sent a warning” to Aliyev, reports suggest:
Patience is wearing thin with the huge wealth gap a decade after he succeeded his long-ruling father, says The Moscow Times.
Ismailli, with its dreary single-story Soviet-era buildings, shows no sign of benefiting from the vast oil and natural gas riches that have helped transform parts of the capital, Baku, into a showcase of shimmering glass and metal where luxury cars cruise next to the Caspian Sea.
Residents of the town of 15,000, about 200 kilometers northwest of Baku, complain of corruption across the tightly controlled country of 9 million, an overbearing government and a lack of jobs, money and prospects.
Protesters posted online photographs (above) and videos of the crackdown
“Among the detained were famous journalists and civil society activists, the head of the Legal Education Society Intigam Aliyev, the head of the Regional Resource Centre for Development of NGOs and Democracy Malakhat Nasibova, her husband a human rights activist and journalist Ilgar Nasibov, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova and others,” the Turan news agency reported:
The report says that the police acted violently against the detainees, even after they were put into buses. Thus, the police fired tear gas into the cabin of the bus, where Malahat Nasibova, Ilgar Nasibov and about 30 other people were put in, including journalists from pro-governmental media. The bus windows were locked. Drivers were told to drive quickly. However, as a result of being poisoned he felt sick, and had an accident on his way running over a foreign car.
The security forces’ crackdown coincides with a decision by authorities in Mexico City to remove a statue of Aliyev (right).
“Mexico doesn’t need to import, in exchange for money, tyrants from other countries, nor make others’ conflicts our own,” Mexican activist and writer Homero Aridjis wrote in an e-mail. “We already have enough of our own problems.”
The World Movement for Democracy highlighted the bloggers’ imprisonment as a test case for defending civil society, insisting that “civil society representatives, individually and through their organizations, enjoy the right to freedom of expression.”
For further updates and to support the campaign to free the activists, go to this Facebook page.