Azeri lawmakers approved a law that raises fines for organizing and attending unsanctioned rallies almost 27 times a year before presidential elections as police detained several dozen opposition protesters outside parliament.
The Milli Maclis, dominated since 1995 by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party and government allies, today voted 105 to 5 to raise the maximum penalty for protesters who violate the law to 8,000 manat ($10,200) from 300 manat. The legislation will go into effect after President Ilham Aliyev signs it into law.
Police detained almost 30 members of the main opposition groups People’s Front Party of Azerbaijan and Musavat, or Equality, as they attempted to rally outside the parliament building today in the capital, Baku.
Azerbaijan’s secular opposition, stirred by Arab Spring rebellions that brought down authoritarian rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, has staged protests against the government in 2011 and this year. The groups failed to galvanize enough support to challenge Aliyev’s government as police arrested hundreds of protesters, some of whom were later jailed for disrupting public order and damaging private property.