Azerbaijan police break up protest against violence in army

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 12, 2013 4:04 PM

BAKU (Reuters) - Police in Azerbaijan detained several young opposition activists on Saturday who protested in Baku against violence in the military, the first such demonstration in the oil-rich country.

Western governments and human rights groups accuse President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, of rigging elections and of clamping down on dissent. Protests are often swiftly broken up by security forces.

Saturday's protest was triggered by the sudden death of a soldier, Jeyhun Gubadov, on January 7 at a military barracks. The defense ministry said initially the soldier had died of a heart attack. But his family believed he was murdered and four soldiers were arrested after an investigation was opened.

More than 500 demonstrators took to the streets of the capital, shouting "No to murders in peace time!"

Buoyed by oil wealth, Azerbaijan has increased military spending in recent years to demonstrate its military power to its neighbor and arch foe Armenia, against which it fought a war in the 1990s.

But experts say the army is still weak and in need of modernization. There have been several cases of abuse and suicide.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi)