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U.S. Embassy Voices Concern About Azeri Opposition Arrests

The U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan expressed concern about the arrest of two opposition politicians, urging the government of President Ilham Aliyev to ensure a fair and transparent investigation.

Ilgar Mammadov, leader of the Republican Alternative movement who plans to run for president in elections slated for October, and Tofiq Yaqubli, deputy head of the main opposition party Musavat, were arrested Feb. 4 on charges of inciting riots in the northwestern town of Ismayilli last month. Both will remain in police custody for two months awaiting trial.

“We urge the government of Azerbaijan to observe due process of the law and ensure transparency and fairness of the judicial process,” the U.S. embassy said in an e-mailed statement today. “We encourage meaningful dialogue between the Azerbaijani government and its citizens to address legitimate grievances and also urge authorities to respect citizens’ freedom of assembly and expression.”

Dozens of people were detained after residents of Ismayilli, 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of the capital, Baku, torched a hotel and luxury cars owned by a son of one of Aliyev’s ministers and damaged the local governor’s house in two days of riots. Authorities accused “destructive forces,” including Mammadov and Yaqubli, of provoking the unrest, charges both men dismissed as politically motivated.

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