BRIEFS

Council of Europe Says No Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan

STRASBOURG (ARMENPRESS)–In a report released on July 13–Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer–noted that virtually all persons considered to be political prisoners in Azerbaijan have either been released or retried. The report was compiled and published by Professors Stefan Trechsel and Evert Alkema.

"This demonstrates the good cooperation established with the Azerbaijani authorities; it also illustrates the usefulness of the work of my experts [Trechsel and Alkema]. The procedure established was indeed confidential and quite lengthy but it allowed for possible settlemen’s to the satisfaction of all those concerned." In appreciation of their efforts–Schwimmer last week awarded both Trechsel and Alkema the Pro-Merito medal.

Azeri Opposition Party Deman’s New Presidential Election

BAKU (ARMENPRESS)–Last Saturday–the main Azeri opposition party–Musavat (Equality)–released a statement in which the demand for new presidential elections was made. The statement–which was adopted at the party council’s session–accused the Aliyev family and its allies of "usurping" power by rigging the October 15–2003 presidential elections through fraud and merciless repressions.

Another statement by the Musavat party demanded the immediate release of over 100 opposition activists that were convicted shortly after the election. With several of its leaders on trial–the party also expressed its concern that Musavat members will not receive fair trials under the present judicial system.

United States Cuts Off Aid To Uzbekistan

WASHINGTON DC (EURASIANET.ORG)–The United States has announced that it will withhold millions of dollars in security and economic assistance to Uzbekistan–citing "disappointment" over Tashkent’s human rights practices. Human rights advocates have praised the US decision–expressing hope that it increases the pressure on Tashkent to implement long-promised reforms to improve civil-society conditions in the country.

American law requires the US State Department to review the democratization performance of aid recipients. In Uzbekistan’s case–Secretary of State Colin Powell decided that Tashkent is not fulfilling the terms of a 2002 Strategic Partnership Framework agreement that mandated "substantial and continuing progress" on democratization–a July 13 State Department statement said. As a result of Powell’s decision to deny certification–Uzbekistan could lose up to $18 million in aid–the statement added.

In recent years–Uzbekistan has faced sharp criticism from human rights groups over the government’s clampdown on freedom of speech and religious expression. Human Rights Watch has estimated that roughly 7,000 independent Muslims have been improperly imprisoned. The crackdown intensified this spring after Tashkent was rocked in late March by clashes between Islamic radical insurgents and security forces. In addition to human rights transgressions–Uzbek authorities have frustrated US and European officials by failing to fulfill economic reform commitmen’s.

The Uzbek government has made "encouraging progress over the past year" in the human rights sphere–the State Department statement noted. However–the country’s overall performance could not justify certification–it added. In its country report on Uzbek human rights practices–released in early 2004–the State Department characterized the country as "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights."

24 People Die in Iran Road Accident

TEHRAN (ARMENPRESS)–Twenty-four people died and 13 others were injured when the driver of a heavy truck smashed into a passenger bus on a road in southern Iran. The accident occurred shortly before dawn between the towns of Darab and Fasa in the Fars province. "The driver had fallen asleep and lost control," a police official was quoted as saying.

Iran’s roads are already considered to be among the most dangerous in the world. More than a quarter of all cars on the road are over 20 years old. Close to 100,000 people have died in road accidents in the past five years. 25,772 individuals were killed during the one year period between March 2003 and March 2004.

Engineering University Introduces Religious Counseling

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)–The Armenian Church has accepted an invitation from the state-run Yerevan Engineering University to provide religious counseling sessions to its students. The university has designated a room in which students will be able to hold private discussions with clergymen. The church announced that it is ready to establish similar programs at other universities.

Pyunic FC Beats Pobeda of Macedonia

SKOPJE (ARMENPRESS)–On Tuesday night–Armenian champions FC Pyunik moved into the second qualifying round after a 3-1 victory over FC Pobeda of Macedonia. Edgar Manucharyan of Pyunik dominated the field–scoring two goals and assisting Zhora Hovhanesian for a third.

Senior Military Officer’s Son Fights with US Citizen

YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–The Interior Ministry press service confirmed on July 13 that Arsen Harutyunyan–the 30 year old son of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mikael Harutyunyan–attacked David Becker (29) on July 10 in the "Bunker" club in downtown Yerevan. Police officials confirmed that Backer has appealed to the central department of the police complaining that someone named Arsen beat him severely–causing injuries. Officials also said that according to Becker–Harutyunyan attacked two women.

General Mikael Harutyunyan refused to comment on the incident. "It would be improper for me to comment," the general said–adding that his children were brought up properly.

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