Two prominent critics of President Ilham Aliyev's government were arrested in Azerbaijan on February 4 on charges of orchestrating the unusually daring anti-regime protests that took place in the town of Ismayilli late last month.
Coming after a run of arrests of protesters in Ismayilli and Baku, the detentions suggest that the government's unease about impromptu demonstrations in a presidential election year is not lessening. (Particularly with a Davos retreat in Baku this April, to boot.)
Prosecutors claim that Tofig Yagublu, deputy chairperson of the opposition Musavat Party, and Ilgar Mammadov*, chairperson of the opposition group REAL and a former political analyst, are to blame for instigating the demonstrations, which followed January 23 riots after a car accident that allegedly involved the nephew of the Ismayilli region's governor, Nizami Alakbarov. Yagublu and Mammadov reportedly traveled to Ismayilli to encourage protesters only after the demonstration itself, RFE/RL reports. Other sources say that poverty and the regional elite's high-handed behaviorhttp://www.eurasianet.org/node/66454 "> were the real cause of the unrest.
If proven guilty, Yagublu and Mammadov will face up to three years in jail.
*Ilgar Mammadov is an ex-board member of the former Open Society
Assistance Foundation-Azerbaijan, which was part of the network of Open
Society Foundations. EurasiaNet.org is run under the auspices of the
Open Society Foundation's Central Eurasia Project, a separate part of