Azerbaijani opposition leader cut off from outside world, president again calls opposition ‘enemies of the people’
The leader of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP) opposition party, Ali Kerimli, has had his access to the internet and mobile communications services blocked twice in the past three days.
The mobile numbers of his family members and even a landline in their apartment has been blocked as well, the APFP Facebook page reports.
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Party members believe that authorities blocked the opposition’s connection to prevent him from giving online interviews. In their opinion, this is another round of repression against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The authorities have not yet commented on this.
According to official data, on the morning of April 15, 1197 cases of COVID-19 infection had been recorded in Azerbaijan. 13 people died, 351 recovered.
In January 2020, Ali Karimli sued the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for having refused to issue a passport for 14 years.
30 days for “enemies of the people”
Over the past few weeks, several members of the Popular Front have been given administrative arrests. They were accused of “violating the quarantine regime” and given 30 days each.
Members of other opposition parties were also arrested. The most discussed was the arrest of Musavat party member Tofig Yagublu, who was accused of hooliganism – the investigation into his case has not yet been completed, and while it lasts, Yagublu was sent to prison for 3 months.
This arrest outraged not only local human rights defenders, but also international organizations and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The authorities of Azerbaijan are increasingly being accused of using the epidemic and quarantine for repressive purposes. The authorities deny this and insist that all these opposition activists actually violated the quarantine rules, and that Tofig Yagublu attacked two people.
However, on April 14, President Ilham Aliyev said openly in his speech yet again that he believes that local opposition (in particular – the “NFA” and “Musavat”) and enemies traitors:
“Today, only this anti-national group is pleased with the coronavirus. They want an increase in the number of dead, they want an increase in the number of patients, they are glad that people are dying. That is, it is hostility not against the government, but against the state. I call everything by their names. If someone is hostile to our people, the state, then he has only one name – the enemy,” Aliyev said.
At present, Azerbaijan has declared a strict quarantine regime – closed metro, parks, squares, almost all commercial facilities, organizations and enterprises.
To go out, you must either have a certificate of employment or receive SMS permission from the authorities, which is issued only once a day for two hours. People over 65 are generally not allowed to leave the house.