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Azeri Police Probe Alleged Attack on Journalist by Socar Guards

Azeri police began investigating an incident between security guards from Socar, or State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan, and journalists that left a reporter seriously injured and drew condemnation from human rights groups including Amnesty International.

Idrak Abbasov, a correspondent from the Zerkalo newspaper, said he was attacked by about 10 Socar security personnel while covering the demolition of houses the company says were built illegally in a suburb of Baku, the capital. A reporter with opposition newspaper Yeni Musavat was also attacked, he said.

“They took away my phone and threw me to the ground, kicking and beating me with batons although I was wearing a press jacket,” Abbasov said in an interview in hospital. He had bruises on his right eye and parts of his body.

Eight other people, including seven Socar employees, were also injured, Ehsan Zahidov, head of the Interior Ministry’s press service, said by phone.

Amnesty International called the attack part of a government clampdown on media in Azerbaijan, which hosts the Eurovision Song Contest next month.

“One would have thought that with the Eurovision just around the corner and images from Baku about to be beamed around the world, the authorities would be on their best behavior,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia director, said in a statement. “Instead, journalists in the process of exposing human rights abuses are themselves coming under attack by state officials bent on preventing them from reporting the truth.”

Socar President Rovnaq Abdullayev ordered an investigation of the incident, the company said today on its website.

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