Azerbaijan Protests Face Crackdown

Police officers disperse opposition demonstrators in Baku, Azerbaijan, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005. Truncheon-wielding police on Saturday beat and dispersed opposition protesters demanding a revote of disputed parliamentary election , the first time since the vote that authorities used force against demonstrators. (AP Photo/Saleh Abdullayev) AP

Truncheon-wielding police beat and dispersed opposition protesters demanding a revote of disputed parliamentary elections, the first time since the vote that authorities used force against demonstrators.

Some 15,000 opposition activists gathered Saturday in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, to protest the outcome of the Nov. 6 parliamentary elections which they claimed were rigged, the latest in a series of such opposition actions in recent weeks.

But unlike the previous rallies, the demonstrators on Saturday tried to set up a permanent protest on a square in downtown Baku, triggering a swift police crackdown.

Immediately after opposition leaders said they were going to stage a sitting protest on the square, police in riot gear rushed to disperse them, beating them with truncheons and pushing them away.

Protesters shouted "Freedom!" and some hurled stones at police, who hid behind shields.

Hundreds of soldiers, police and plainclothes police agents quickly pushed protesters away from the square. They shattered a stand used by opposition leaders and broke the opposition's orange banners, the color borrowed from Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

Baku's deputy police chief, Yashar Aliev, said 18 officers were injured in the clash with the protesters. He said police had detained 29 rally participants.

Opposition leaders said scores of protesters were beaten and many were badly injured.
  • Sean Alfano

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