Many detained in Azerbaijan over protest attempt

March 12, 2011 - 0:0

BAKU (Agencies) - Azerbaijan security forces detained at least 15 people on Friday after anti-government activists inspired by Arab world unrest used social media to call for street protests in the oil-producing Muslim state.

Riot troops and plainclothes police detain young activists one by one near a major university in the center of Baku, the capital of the authoritarian former Soviet republic, Reuters reported.
Police said 10 people were detained for attempting to hold an unauthorized demonstration. Activists vowed to hold more protests as they were being taken away by police.
“We will try to hold other protests in the future,” one young man told reporters before police bundled him into a waiting bus.
One demonstrator detained was Turgut Gambar, the son of opposition Musavat party leader Isa Gambar. Musavat is planning an unsanctioned rally Saturday to demand broader rights to hold public gatherings, AP reported.
Opposition parties and rights groups also said at least five youth activists have been arrested in recent days in connection with Friday's rally.
Azeri authorities stepped up security outside the country's main universities as well as metro stations in Baku on Friday, and students at Baku universities were warned they would be expelled if they missed classes.
Azerbaijan has faced persistent criticism from international rights groups for its heavy-handed treatment of independent media and opposition parties.
Photo: Police detain an opposition activist in Baku on March 11, 2011. (Reuters photo)