Azerbaijani police call opposition protesters to “verify number and address”
Protesters who went to the 19 January protest in defense of political prisoners in Baku have complained of the police taking ‘special interest’ in them.
Many have reported being ‘invited’ to police stations across Baku under various pretexts – others have been questioned over the phone.
Most are asked for their passport data – first and last names, addresses, telephone numbers and so on.
Some have been asked their occupation and party affiliations.
The calls were made from police departments located near the individuals’ place of residence.
Why is it strange?
It is not surprising that the Azerbaijani police are interested in the participants of the protest movement – but the scale and scope of the inquest is. Not only have well-known activists been called, but also journalists, photographers and rally first-timers.
There were at least 7,000 people at the rally on 19 January.
The opposition rally on 19 January was the most recent link in a chain of protests that were held in support of imprisoned blogger Mehman Huseynov.
On 17 January the European Parliament intervened, demanding the immediate release of all political prisoners in Azerbaijan. On 21 January, Huseynov requested the president’s personal involvement in the recent charges laid against him.
The case was dismissed shortly after.
The police, meanwhile, deny that the calls are related to the rally, explaining that their interest is related to problems with an individual’s phone number or other “routine checks”.
Journalist Ramin Deko says that he was asked directly about the rally:
“Today I received a call from the precinct of the area where I am registered. They asked if I participated in the rally on 19 January. I said that I had participated and, not waiting until he asked the reason, I added that the rally was allowed, and I attended it as a journalist. He stopped asking about the rally, then asked where I live and said goodbye. This is the first time.”
Comments from Facebook:
“It’s not just journalists they are calling, but everyone who was nearby or just passing by, too…”
“Even my grandmother was called.”
Social media users are speculating how the police determined who was at the rally. Officials have not commented on the situation.