Pro-Western opposition parties in Azerbaijan have criticized the arrests of Muslim activists and two IRIB employees as a new phase of repression in the country.
On February 18, Azerbaijan's police and plainclothes forces arrested an IRIB correspondent and a local driver on charges of “carrying illicit drugs,” amid a new wave of arrests of Islamist activists and anti-government protestors in the Caspian Sea state.
Local media sources in Baku cited leader of Musavat Party Isa Gambar, who accused the government of taking Azeri citizens hostage.
The clampdown always starts with drug abuse accusations against those arrested and continues to pushing charges of involvement in terrorist attacks and coup attempts, he stated.
Gambar also blamed the government’s incompetence for the country’s poor ties with its neighbors.
Sardar Jalaloglu, who leads the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, condemned the massive detention of religious activists in the country as oppression resulted by the government’s weakness and inability.
Deputy Chairman of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Fuad Mustafaye also said his party strongly condemned the clampdown on Muslim activists, noting that no Azeri citizen should suffer such political pressure.
Political observers believe that the new phase of repression in the republic started in January 2011, and is a reminder of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s clampdown in the then Socialist Azerbaijan.
The third wave of detentions in Azerbaijan coincides with Baku’s huge arms purchase from Israel and amid growing anti-Western sentiments ahead of planned gay parade in the capital, on the sidelines of Eurovision competitions hosted by Baku.
Azerbaijani government pursuing an anti-religious policy by closing Shia mosques and arresting Shiite Islamic scholars and leaders, although 92% of the population is Shia Muslim.