Azerbaijani Police Severely Beat Opposition Politician, Activists

By RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service

BAKU -- Relatives of Tofiq Yaqublu say the opposition politician was severely beaten by police and other activists are missing after a rally demanding the immediate release from prison of hungry striking opposition activist Saleh Rustamli..

Yaqublu, a member of the Coordination Center of Azerbaijan's Democratic Forces' National Council and a leading member of the opposition Musavat party, was rushed to hospital late on December 1 after he was released from custody with deep bruises on his face and body, his daugthter Nigar Hazi told RFE/RL on December 2.

Hazi posted a video showing the signs of the beating -- especially his bruised and swolled face -- on YouTube, sparking a public outcry.

On the video, Yaqublu says that police beat him after they detained him.

Interior Ministry spokesman Elsad Haciyev said on December 2 that "allegations that Yaqublu was beaten while in police custody are groundless."

Representatives of the opposition Popular Front of Azerbaijan (AXCP) party told RFE/RL that two party activists, Pasa Dadaszade and Saqif Qurbanov, were also severely beaten by police after they were detained at the rally. They say that Dadaszade suffered several fractures to one of his hands.

The whereabouts of four other activists -- Rustam Ismayilbeyli, Ilhan Huseyn, Sayyad Quliyev, and Elxan Aliyev -- have been unknown since they were detained at the demonstration, their relatives told RFE/RL on December 2.

Opponents of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Western countries, and international human rights groups say his government has persistently persecuted critics, political foes, independent media outlets, and civic activists.

Aliyev, who has ruled the nation of almost 10 million people since shortly before the death of his father and predecessor, Heydar Aliyev, in 2003, has shrugged off the criticism.