Azeri blogger’s continued detention sparks international condemnation

Oct 5, 2012
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International criticism is mounting over the arrest of an activist blogger in Azerbaijan last week. On 3 October, Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned the arrest of 25-year-old Zaur Gurbanli, saying, “There is little doubt that Gurbanli’s arrest is linked to his blogging and political activities.”

According to the reporters group, Gurbanli, known as a fierce critic of the government, was arrested on 29 September by members of the Interior Ministry’s organized crime department and kept in seclusion for two days without being allowed to contact his lawyer or family. On 1 October the Interior Ministry announced that Gurbanli had been sentenced to 15 days’ administrative detention for “refusing to cooperate with a police investigation into drug trafficking.” Judging from statements from the authorities, he might be additionally charged for alleged illegal drug activities, according to Radio Free Europe.

After his arrest, the Azerbaijan authorities confiscated about 8,000 leaflets of the NIDA organization, a group of young opposition activists of which Gurbanli is a board member. The leaflets showed a portrait of President Ilham Aliev with the slogan: “I will leave in 2013 if you join NIDA.”

In a recent blog post, Gurbanli had ridiculed the inclusion of a poem by the president’s daughter in an elementary-school anthology of Azerbaijani literature. The poem had been dedicated to the girl’s late grandfather, former President Heidar Aliev. “This is the poetry of the daughter of the dictator Ilham Aliev. Look what we are coming to. This is the method of poisoning our children. We should protest as much as we can,” Gurbanli wrote, according to RFE.

Gurbanli was also an active member of the Sing for Democracy campaign, which attempted to draw attention to Azerbaijan’s poor human rights situation during the Eurovision song contest.

Azerbaijan has faced criticism before for its harassment of young online activists, most prominently for the arrest of the so-called donkey bloggers in 2009.


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Transitions Online

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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