In what appears to be Azerbaijan's second Facebook-related imprisonment in less than a month, a court in the city of Ganja on March 4 sentenced youth activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev to one month in prison. Details about the charges against Hajiyev were not immediately clear.
Twenty-nine-year-old Hajiev, a former parliamentary candidate, is one of the organizers of a youth demonstration against the government planned for March 11. Police in Ganja summoned him twice on March 4 to question him about statements he had posted on Facebook, another youth activist told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Azerbaijani service.
“We learned from the developments in the Arab world that when people
demand freedom, they achieve it. We call on you to stand on the right
side of history, not to resort to force against your own citizens, to
build a fair, happy, and free society in Azerbaijan together with
ordinary people," reads one of those statements, directed to police. Hajiyev's prison sentence follows a February 17 ruling by a Sumgayit court that put opposition youth activist Jabbar Savanly, another active Facebook user, in prison for one month, pending trial for alleged marijuana possession.
Meanwhile, other anti-Facebook tactics have also emerged. In an apparent attempt at guilt by association, news website Qaynar.info, seen as pro-government, this week posted a list of Azerbaijanis (including EurasiaNet.org contributor Khadija Ismayilova) who have Armenian friends on Facebook.
The arrests (and Facebook list) follow Egypt and Tunisia's popular uprisings, which have been avidly followed by young Azerbaijanis, both on and off Facebook -- an interest that has not escaped the government's attention.
To smooth over any popular complaints about its performance, the government last month launched an anti-corruption crackdown, and has urged officials to avoid altercations with the public.
So far, though, no posts on President Ilham Aliyev's Facebook profile about it.