The disappearance of one of the organizers of a peaceful protest against the deaths of several young conscripts allegedly as a result of hazing – a violent initiation ceremony - by the Azerbaijani military is the latest in a string of actions by the authorities to crackdown on dissent, Amnesty International said today.
Ilkin Rustamzade was detained on 9 March and has not been seen since. Three of the other organizers were arrested before the demonstration in a sting operation on 8 March. Police claim to have found drugs and incendiary devices in the homes of Mahammad Azizov, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Shahin Novruzlu.
All three were forced to appear on state television reading pre-prepared confessions, prompting fears that they have been tortured. They face long prison sentences if convicted.
The peaceful demonstration, which took place on Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, was broken up by police with rubber bullets and water cannon.