Protest participants called for the country’s leadership to resign
Participants in Saturday’s opposition rally of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) accused Azerbaijani authorities of corruption and demanded urgent implementation of democratic reforms, as well as the release of political prisoners.
It was their fifth protest rally this year. Like previous rallies, it was coordinated with Baku city executive authorities, and was held under heavy police guard in a designated space – a stadium on the outskirts of Baku.
The agenda for the latest rally was almost identical to previous ones. As usual, speakers accused authorities of corruption, called for the release of political prisoners, focused on economic problems, and demanded the resignation of the country’s leadership.
A member of the NCDF Coordination Center and an agricultural expert, Vahid Maharramli, said that at first the economic crisis in Azerbaijan should be cut in half.
“With this mindset, intelligence, and capabilities, they (the authorities) cannot achieve anything. We must show them the way, and their way is retirement,” were Maharramli’s words, as given by the Turan agency.
Human rights activist Ogtay Gulaliyev focused especially on issues of political prisoners and freedom of speech.
“Independent and opposition sites have been blocked. There are currently over 160 political prisoners in this country. About 20 of them are journalists and bloggers. Azerbaijan leads Europe in terms of the number of political prisoners it has,” said Gulaliyev.
Ali Kerimli, leader of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), sevely criticized authorities. Kerimli said that in 24 years the government has not solved any of the country’s problems, and there has been no progress in settling the Karabakh conflict and returning the occupied territories.
In the end, Kerimli said that NCDF will temporarily suspend protest rallies. According to him, this does not however mean that the rallies will cease. “We will have even more massive and strong rallies and the National Council will be notified about it,” Kerimli said.
A message from the Baku Main Police Department, which was circulated after the rally, noted that up to 1 000 people took part in it. “There have been no cases of gross violation of public order or legal norms,” said the police.