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Azeri Protesters, Police Clash Over Rally Ban Before Eurovision

Azeri police clashed today in the capital with about 100 opposition activists challenging restrictions on freedom of assembly before the country hosts the Eurovision song contest later this month.

Protesters chanted “Freedom” and “Resignation” as police and plainclothes security officers attempted to prevent them from marching toward the mayor’s office in the center of Baku. Some of the picketers were beaten by the police.

Emboldened by popular movements that have toppled authoritarian leaders in the Middle East, Azeri opposition leaders want to seize the media spotlight in the weeks before Baku hosts Eurovision, the world’s most watched singing competition. Azerbaijan, a Caspian Sea nation of 9 million people, is the third-biggest oil producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia and Kazakhstan.

The Public Chamber, an alliance of major opposition parties and groups, said it will continue protests in the run-up to the pan-European song contest to demand greater democratic freedoms and the release of imprisoned activists.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zulfugar Agayev in Baku at zagayev@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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