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Azeri police break up opposition rallies ahead of Eurovision

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Azeri police break up opposition rallies ahead of Eurovision


For Azerbaijan, hosting the glitz and glamour of the Eurovision Song Contest was part of a charm offensive to put the ex-Soviet Republic on the map.

But increased international attention has also led to criticism of the country’s human rights record.

Earlier, police arrested 35 people protesting outside the state television station in the capital Baku.

Activists accuse President Ilham Aliyev of stifling dissent and restricting media freedom.

They say Eurovision lends credibility to an authoritarian regime that jails political opponents.

Human rights lawyer Lela Yunnus said: “My message to Eurovision is – Shame on you that you did not support democratisation and freedoms in Azerbaijan (and) the rule of law.”

Aliyev has ruled Azerbaijan for nine years after inheriting power from his father.

At the last parliamentary election in 2010, the main opposition party failed to win a single seat.

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