Rights group accuses Azerbaijan of crackdown on worshippers

A rights group in Azerbaijan accused security forces of a crackdown on Shi'ite worshippers in the Nakhchivan region.

Rights group accuses Azerbaijan of crackdown on worshippers

A rights group in Azerbaijan on Thursday accused security forces of a crackdown on Shi'ite worshippers in the Nakhchivan region.

The Institute for Freedom and Security of Reporters, a non-governmental organisation, said a police blockade had been in place since Tuesday in the village of Bananiyar near the Iranian border, after police and worshippers clashed on the Shi'ite mourning day of Ashura on Dec. 27.

It said up to 30 people had been arrested.

"The village is blockaded by police, women and children are afraid to go into the streets," a source at the institute, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

"Journalists aren't being allowed in, and people giving information are being investigated."

The Azeri Interior Ministry declined to comment and there was no information about the alleged crackdown on state-controlled media.

Citing villagers, the independent Turan news agency reported on Wednesday that police had arrested and beaten 15 people in Bananiyar after the Ashura festival.

Turan said that in protest at the intervention, a 35-year-old man had set himself on fire and later died.

Nakhchivan, the native region of President Aliyev's family, is an autonomous republic geographically separate from the rest of Azerbaijan and sandwiched between Iran and Armenia.

But critics accuse the authorities -- frequently criticised by rights groups for curbing freedoms -- of exerting pressure on the Islamic community, including closing a number of mosques.



Reuters





Last Mod: 07 Ocak 2010, 16:01
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