Elchibey Faces Criminal Charges in Azerbaijan

BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan’s justice ministry announced on Friday that it has launched a criminal case charging former president Abulfaz Elchibey with defaming the honor and dignity of his successor–President Haydar Aliyev.

In a statement the ministry accused Elchibey–who leads the Popular Front opposition party–of insulting Aliyev in articles published in opposition newspapers Azadlig and Eni Musavat on November 7-9. It said the case has been sent to prosecutors.

Defaming Aliyev is a serious crime in Azerbaijan.

The ministry’s statement also called for tighter controls on the media–and for opening civil cases against newspapers that published Elchibey’s statemen’s.

In the disputed articles–Elchibey was quoted as saying Aliyev–a former high-ranking Soviet official–was involved decades ago in the founding of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) which is fighting for independence from Turkey. Aliyev denies such claims.

Azerbaijan’s chief prosecutor has threatened leading opposition figures with prison after anti-government demonstrations last weekend.

"In Azerbaijan there is a campaign going on which attempts to destroy state structures," Eldar Hasanov told the Melli Mejlis–or parliament on Tuesday "Those who attempt to grab power should know they are knocking on the door of prison."

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