At least 15 detained in Azerbaijan protest bid

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 9:49 AM

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijan security forces detained at least 15 people on Friday after anti-government activists inspired by Arab world unrest used social media to call for street protests in the oil-producing Muslim state.

A Reuters reporter saw riot troops and plainclothes police detain young activists one by one near a major university in the center of Baku, the capital of the authoritarian former Soviet republic.

Police said 10 people were detained for attempting to hold an unauthorized demonstration. Activists vowed to hold more protests as they were being taken away by police.

"We will try to hold other protests in the future," one young man told reporters before police bundled him into a waiting bus.

Six other opposition activists have been detained on various charges in the Caspian Sea nation since early February, when the "Great People's Day" campaign was launched on Facebook and Twitter.

Azeri authorities stepped up security outside the country's main universities as well as metro stations in Baku on Friday, and students at Baku universities were warned they would be expelled if they missed classes.

(Reporting by Lada Yevgrashina and Afet Mehtiyeva; writing by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Mark Heinrich)