Tension in Azerbaijan appears to be escalating following a police crackdown on an unsanctioned rally in Baku that resulted in numerous injuries and in 30 activists receiving jail terms.
Although protesters were relatively few in number -- police estimated 350; opposition members claimed 4,000-5,000 – the methods used to disperse the two-hour protest April 2 suggested that President Ilham Aliyev’s administration, wary of the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and North Aftrica, has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for public displays of government criticism. At least two people were seriously injured, and more than 160 activists detained both during the rally, and in the week preceding the event. Prison terms handed out ranged from three to 13 days.
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Khadija Ismayilova is a freelance reporter in Baku and hosts a daily program on current affairs broadcast by the Azeri Service of RFE/RL.