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Azerbaijan: Arrest of Islamic Party Leader Puts Religion in the Political Spotlight

The recent arrest of the leader of the outlawed Islamic Party of Azerbaijan is raising questions about the future role of Islam in Azerbaijani politics. Analysts in Baku differ on how much influence the Islamic Party has, but many share the belief that Islam could form the basis for a new generation of opposition activists.

Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Chairperson Movsum Samadov was arrested on January 7 after a video of a speech he had made denouncing President Ilham Aliyev was posted on the video-sharing website YouTube. The deputy head of the party, Vagif Abdullayev, party activist Elchin Hasanov, and Samadov’s driver, Mir-Husseyn Kazimov, were also detained.

IPA spokesperson Akif Heydarly told EurasiaNet.org that party leaders do not know where Samadov is being held; the other three detainees were sentenced on January 7 to up to 15 days in jail for resisting police. Heydarly alleged that the arrests were made “for political reasons” following Samadov’s call for a change in government.

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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance reporter based in Baku. He is also a board member of the Open Society Foundation - Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan: Arrest of Islamic Party Leader Puts Religion in the Political Spotlight

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