Azerbaijan: Another activist arrested, questioned over Facebook

Following concerns that there might be an official attempt to discredit or crackdown on the use of Facebook by alternative voices in Azerbaijan comes news of the detention of yet another activist, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev. Word spread quickly on Twitter and was later verified by a report in English from Radio Free Europe (RFE).

Hajiyev, 29, a Harvard graduate and a former parliament candidate, is one of the organizers of the March 11 Facebook campaign calling for a day of protest against the government.

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Hajiyev today posted on his Facebook page the following appeal to police on behalf of “a group of Azerbaijani youth:”

“We learned from the developments in the Arab world that when people demand freedom, they achieve it. We call on you to stand on the right side of history, not to resort to force against your own citizens, to build a fair, happy, and free society in Azerbaijan together with ordinary people.”

Hajiyev was detained earlier this year and charged with evading military service. He and other activists say the criminal case against him is politically motivated.

As one of seven moderators of a recently launched Facebook page calling for Egypt-style protests in Azerbaijan, Hajiyev is apparently the only one based in the oil-rich former Soviet republic. Ironically, one of those other moderators told RFE's Azerbaijan Service only a few days earlier that had he opened the page while living in Azerbaijan he would probably be arrested.

Supporters say Hajiyev's detention appears to confirm that, especially as it follows the arrest last month of another activist, Jabbar Savalan. That young activist had also made calls for Egypt-style pro-democracy protests on his Facebook page.

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