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Azerbaijani youth activists targeted after using Facebook to call for protests

February 11, 2011 2 comments

Two members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party’s (APFP) youth organization were targeted by police this week after calling for protests against the Azerbaijani government on Facebook. Amnesty International is concerned that the authorities are seeking to further restrict the environment for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan by cracking down on online activism in addition to conventional media.

Jabbar Savalan, a 20-year-old student, was arrested in Sumgayit on 5 February after he posted on Facebook calling for a “Day of Rage” in Freedom Square in Baku, echoing the calls for protest in the Middle East. A month prior to his arrest he had reposted an article, originally published in a Turkish newspaper and critical of Azerbaijan’s President, on his Facebook page. Jabbar Savalan had also been involved in a protest against the government on 20 January.

He made the Facebook post on February 4 and was intercepted by police the following night as he returned home from an APFP meeting. Police had searched his home while he attended the meeting, claiming to be acting on an anonymous tip-off.

According to his lawyer, Asabali Mustafayev, police officers handcuffed Jabbar Savalan and forced him into a police car without giving a reason for his arrest or searching him. He was later searched at the police station, where police claim to have found 0.74 grams of marijuana in his coat pocket. He was charged with “possessing narcotics with intent to supply.“ Despite their claim to be acting on an anonymous tip-off, police did not provide any explanation to Jabbar Savalan or his lawyer as to how it was they believed he had obtained the marijuana, or to whom he intended to supply it. Jabbar Savalan’s family and friends say that he has no history of drugs use. His lawyer has called for an independent drugs test to be carried out.

Amnesty International Read more…

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