Home / Armenia / Hundreds Arrested, But Azerbaijan Opposition Says April 2 Protest was a Success

Hundreds Arrested, But Azerbaijan Opposition Says April 2 Protest was a Success

Continuing the wave of pro-democracy protests in Baku, the last being held on Mar. 12, the opposition’s latest “unsanctioned” rally took place Saturday.

As with the previous protests, Twitter was the most popular source of information for those interested with participants and supporters using the #2aprel hashtag to quickly spread information regarding any arrests or the direction the protest was going, especially as Fountain Square, where the protest was supposed to start at 2 pm, was under police control from early on, writes Leyla Najafli in Global Voices.

Arrests started before the protest did, as reports about activists getting detained in their homes or on their way to the protest from tweeps and bloggers flooded in.

Not only regular activists, but also a few opposition leaders were arrested, including APFP vice chair Fuad Ghahramanli and leader of the party’s youth wing Abülfaz Ghurbanli.

There were also reports of buses coming to Baku from the regions that were stopped by police with passengers being detained.

“A micro-bus taking 18 passengers from Sumgayit to the Baku protest has been stopped. It has been taken to Sumgayit 4th Police Department along with passengers.”

Tweeps warned of pro-government  “counter-protests” and there were also reports of unknown individuals breaking windows in nearby shops.

“Plainclothes officers are being saboteurs, breaking glass in buildings”

Despite the numerous arrests, Isa Gambar, leader of the opposition Musavat Party, and Ali Kerimli (alternative spelling Ali Karimli), leader of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), considered the rally to be successful.

“As we predicted, the rally on April 2 was the largest protest in recent years. It was attended by thousands of people and their numbers can still grow. It should be noted especially that city residents supported rally participants; in many cases, joining them and walking with them, chanting slogans. This proves that the April 2 rally wasn’t just an opposition rally, but a protest by the entire people,” said Gambar, according to Azerbaijani news site Deyerler.

According to Kerimli, authorities had taken very serious measures to prevent the rally — arresting activists prior to the start of the rally and blocking the roads in and out of the capital.

“Police displayed great cruelty; they used tear gas [later shown to be in fact mace] and batons and beat a lot of people. Despite all this, people were able express their protests,” he said.

All in all, there were reports that anywhere between 115–200 people being detained out of a reported 600-1000 participants, although some of them have since been released.

Photo of APFP activist Tazakhan Mirelemli injured by police.