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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 16:41 GMT
Thousands mourn Azeri journalist
Elmar Huseynov's coffin
Huseynov has been described as a national hero
Thousands of people have attended the funeral of murdered independent reporter Elmar Huseynov in Azerbaijan.

Huseynov, widely known for his outspoken criticism of the Azerbaijani authorities, was shot outside his flat in the capital, Baku, on Wednesday.

International organisations and foreign governments have condemned the killing.

Huseynov's family - echoing a warning from President Ilham Aliyev - had urged the opposition not to turn the funeral into an anti-government rally.

They wanted to silence him, but they cannot silence a people - Azerbaijan will be free
Ali Kerimli,
Popular Front party

But the BBC's Natalia Antelava in Baku says the gathering inside the big hall where the ceremony took place nevertheless resembled a political meeting.

Some 3,000 mourners joined the procession through the streets of Baku to the cemetery behind the coffin, which was unusually kept closed.

A number of government officials were present at the subsequent funeral meeting, but the crowd jeered one of them who tried to speak until he was forced to leave the room.

Police kept out of sight during the procession.

'Loss to the nation'

Our correspondent says people cheered as opposition leader Ali Kerimli addressed them.

Elmar Huseynov (Photo: Echo newspaper)
Elmar Huseynov was fiercely critical of the authorities

Mr Kerimli told the crowds that the government should resign unless it can track down the killers within the next two weeks.

"The bullet was aimed at the people of Azerbaijan," he said.

"Elmar is a victim of political terror. He became a victim of the truth. They wanted to silence him, but they cannot silence a people. Azerbaijan will be free."

Mr Kerimli told the BBC that the opposition planned to hold mass rallies next week.

The US ambassador to Azerbaijan also addressed the crowd. He described Huseynov as a national hero.

"We hope that people can realise this loss to the nation ... and find ways to protect journalists in Azerbaijan," Reno Harnish said.

An FBI agent arrived from the US on Friday to help with the investigation into the journalist's death.


Opposition leaders had earlier announced they would try to transform the funeral into an anti-government demonstration.

But President Ilham Aliyev warned he would not allow any political force to "use this killing to advance their own ambitions".

Those behind the killing wanted to harm Azerbaijan's image by casting it as an unstable, undemocratic nation where freedom of speech was stifled, he added.

Huseynov, who was one of the country's best-known journalists, was shot dead in his apartment building.

Azeri human rights groups have linked his murder to his role as editor of the magazine Monitor, which had been closed down several times for running articles critical of politicians and businessmen.

Mr Aliyev succeeded his father as president in 2003.

The election was criticised by international observers, and were followed by violent protests. Several opposition leaders were jailed in connection with the riots.

Profile: Elmar Huseynov
03 Mar 05 |  Europe
Azeri magazine editor shot dead
03 Mar 05 |  Europe
Azeri opposition leaders jailed
22 Oct 04 |  Europe
Azeri dynasty stays in power
16 Oct 03 |  Europe
Country profile: Azerbaijan
01 Feb 05 |  Country profiles


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