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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Conspiracy Confessions in Azerbaijan

Photo: AFP11-03-2005 - Azeri authorities confirmed yesterday that new arrests were made in the planned coup d'etat. This time the presidential administration was swept. Representatives of the Ministries of National Security and the Interior and the Prosecutor General's Office did not specify the names of the arrestees, or their number. Official information is that 12 people had been arrested prior to them. The Azeri media mentions 30 people, however. Local television channels are full of the confessions of ex-Finance Minister Fikret Yusifov, ex-Health Minister Ali Insanov, former head of the presidential staff Akif Muradverdiev and former head of the state-owned Azerkhimia Co. Fikret Sadykhov. They were all arrested last month and have confessed giving financial support to the election campaign of emigrant former speaker of the parliament and leader of the opposition Azadlyg (Freedom) bloc Rasul Guliev and aiding his return to Azerbaijan. Two other arrestees, former Minister of Economic Development and influential oligarch Farkhad Aliev and 72-year-old former head of the Academy of Sciences Eldar Salaev have not been heard in public yet. According to the investigation, Yusifov received $305,000 from Insanov and Sadykhov to finance a coup d'etat in favor of Guliev. He gave the money to Salaev, who also took part in secret meetings on financing and organizing the revolt. Former police chief of the city of Gyandzha Natig Efendiev has also been arrested. A large amount of weapons was found in his home. Guliev daily declares the case fabricated and disavows any involvement in it. He made an unsuccessful attempt to return to Azerbaijan on October 17. His plane was detained in Ukraine, while armored vehicles and special forces took to the streets of Baku and mass arrests were made. It now seems unlikely that Guliev will return to the obviously dangerous situation. Local analysts say, however, that his unwillingness to do so is harming the democratic opposition's image. While the opposition is characterizing the wave of arrests as simple infighting amongst the government elite, its members of kept a low profile, in spite of the approaching parliamentary elections. The opposition's general mood is deeply pessimistic. Observers are predicting that they will take 20percent of the parliamentary seats, with international observers closing their eyes to "minor irregularities" in the elections and making the usual statements about "Azerbaijan's latest step toward democracy." The Azerbaijani government is receiving the support of Moscow and the West in return for its partial fulfillment of various demands, and Azeri President Ilham Aliev has obvious defeated the opposition for now in this oil-rich country.

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