Prosecutors in Azerbaijan have questioned the leader of an opposition group on suspicion of conspiring to stir up riots to undermine strongman President Iham Aliyev's bid to run for a third term in office this October.
Eldar Namazov, the administrative chief of Azerbaijan's main opposition bloc, the National Council, was questioned for four and a half hours after a former associate alleged that the bloc was planning to provoke public disturbances if its candidate, celebrity screenwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov, is not allowed to run in the October 9 vote.
Ibragimbekov was suspended from the race on August 27 after election officials said his second, Russian citizenship made him ineligible to run for Azerbaijani office. He has since appealed the decision in court.
Historian Jamil Hasanli has been tapped by the National Council as its backup candidate.
In tackling Namazov, though, the government has chosen a target well versed in its own modes of operation. The 56-year-old Namazov formerly served as the chief of staff and as a senior adviser to President Aliyev's father, the late President Heydar Aliyev.
Aflan Ibragimov, a former deputy chairperson of the executive council of the EL movement that Namazov heads, alleges that EL and the National Council had discussed ways of using public disorder to push Ibragimbekov's candidacy through.
The National Council and the EL movement have denied the accusations and claim that Ibragimov, who has since resigned from his post, is an agent provocateur planted by the Aliyev establishment.
The opposition group's chances to defeat the powerful president and his administration were slim to start with. But with Ibragimbekov's stonewalled candidacy bid and, now, the investigation into alleged conspiracies, the room for potent opposition to the entrenched establishment could shrink still further.