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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Arrest prompts new Azerbaijan protests
Man arrested during Azerbaijani unrest
Azeri government has been tough on stamping out dissent before

The arrest of a town councillor in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan has provoked a major protest calling for his release.

Chanting slogans and waving banners about 1,000 people in the town of Nardaran demanded the release of Cabrail Alizade, a town councillor who was arrested on Friday morning.

Demonstrations have taken place almost every week in this small town near the capital Baku since June when police arrested eight residents accused of trying to oust local authorities.

Accused in Islamic radicalism

The government says the town, which adheres to strict Muslim traditions, is a hotbed for Islamic radicalism.

Some members of parliament say they suspect fundamentalist groups from neighbouring Iran have infiltrated it and are trying to start an Islamic revolution.

But the people of Nardaran say they are simply protesting about high unemployment and poor living conditions.

The arrests in June were followed by riots which left two people dead and dozens injured.

Azerbaijan's deputy Interior Minister, Zakhid Dunyamaliyev, has said he has evidence to suggest the residents of Nardaran have been trying to establish an Islamic council to replace the town's authorities.

International human rights groups have condemned the role of the police in the riots.

Meanwhile opposition parties and many ordinary people in Azerbaijan say this is just another example of the government's brutal approach towards protesters.

See also:

23 Aug 02 | Europe
17 Aug 01 | Media reports
28 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
02 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Aug 02 | Country profiles
11 Jul 01 | Europe
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