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With deeply flawed trials of journalists and a violent clash between members of the Shia Muslim community and police, this week did not pass quietly in Azerbaijan.
The police conducted a special operation in the Nardaran community – 25 km northeast of Baku – in which the Muslim Union Movement chairman Taleh Bagirzade and his supporters were arrested. Two police officers and four civilians were killed in the armed encounter. The government claims that a group of armed believers are planning a violent coup. However, Nardaran residents say the government incited a conflict, and that Bagirzade and his supporters never fired a shot at police officers. Some members of the public regard this incident as a government provocation, while others blame the government for allowing the Shia Muslim community to grow. Other go even further, accusing the government of failing to respect freedoms of religion and of conscience. Journalists were attacked during the Nardaran events; an ITV reporter was beaten and his camera was smashed, while ATV’s journalists were also attacked.
The government continues to violate a host of fundamental rights, not only religious freedoms. The Court of Appeal upheld an unfounded guilty verdict in the case of journalist Khadija Ismayil, journalist Rauf Mirgadirov’s trial continued behind closed doors, and the non-transparent investigation of murdered journalist Rasim Aliyev’s case was extended. Four years have passed since the death of Rafig Tagi, but proceedings in his case have been suspended and the murderers are yet to be found. A climate of impunity for killings of journalists in the country has given rise to an increase in the number of attacks on journalists.
The health problems of imprisoned human rights defenders Intigam Aliyev and Leyla Yunus and the failure to provide appropriate treatment demonstrate that the government has not changed its attitude towards human rights defenders.
The Constitutional Court has approved the results of the November 1st parliamentary elections, and the new parliament has been formed.