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Cablegate: Azerbaijan: Pro-Opposition Parties Hold Small,

VZCZCXRO4276
PP RUEHAST RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHMRE RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR
RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHKB #0578 1341237
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141237Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2989
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNOSC/OSCE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS BAKU 000578

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM PBTS CASC IR AJ
SUBJECT: AZERBAIJAN: PRO-OPPOSITION PARTIES HOLD SMALL,
PEACEFUL PROTEST OVER SOCIAL ISSUES, N-K

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) On May 12, several small pro-opposition parties
staged a peaceful, sanctioned protest over social issues such
as recent price increases, salaries, and pensions; they also
called upon the GOAJ to disclose more information to the
public about the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. This
was the first sanctioned protest held by a group other than
the Musavat Party since police violently broke up an
opposition protest on November 26, 2005. Protesters included
members of the Azerbaijan Way, the National Democratic Party,
the Liberal Democratic Party, and various NGOs. Participation
peaked at about 400; however, by the end of the protest, only
about 150 remained. Police behaved peacefully, although they
asked the protest organizers to cut off one particularly
emotional participant's speaking time.

2. (SBU) The crowd was comprised mostly of youth; the group
did not pay much attention to the speakers and began to
trickle out soon after the start of the protest. The main
speakers, Azerbaijan Way Chair Ilgar Gasimov and National
Democratic Party Chair (and former Minister of Internal
Affairs under former President Albufaz Elchibey) Iskender
Hamidov, criticized the Tariff Council's January decision to
increase utility prices and demanded that salaries and
pensions be increased to reflect the true cost of living in
Azerbaijan. Hamidov also spoke briefly about the rights of
ethnic Azeris living in Iran, and shared his desire for
Azerbaijan to unite with "Southern Azerbaijan." Participants
carried banners reading "No Azerbaijan without Karabakh;"
"Free, Fair, and Democratic Elections," and "Stop Pressure on
the Press."

3. (SBU) COMMENT: We welcome the GOAJ's decision to allow
this group to hold a political protest. However, we remain
concerned by GOAJ restrictions on freedom of assembly,
particularly GOAJ policy on granting permission only for
rallies in "approved" locations far from downtown Baku. Full
restoration of the right to freedom of assembly is critical
to Azerbaijan's democratic development, and will become even
more vital in the run-up the October 2008 Presidential
Elections. We will continue to press the importance of this
with all levels of GOAJ contacts.
DERSE

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