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With Eurovision Over, Government Targets Critics

Azerbaijan -- Video blogger Mehman Huseynov, Baku, 13Jun2012
Azerbaijan -- Video blogger Mehman Huseynov, Baku, 13Jun2012
Amnesty International (AI) today expressed concern that authorities in Azerbaijan are taking revenge against activists who publicized human rights abuses during last month's Eurovision song contest in Baku.

The warning follows the arrest of 23 year-old Mehman Huseynov, a video blogger and photojournalist who works for the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety campaign group and the independent Azerbaijani Turan news agency. He was the Media Coordinator for “Sing for Democracy,” a group that formed in anticipation of Eurovision to exploit the event to inform international audiences about Azerbaijan's poor human rights record.

Huseynov was arrested on June 12 on charges of hooliganism. He was released on June 13, but not before the initial charges were augmented to "assaulting" police during an unauthorized opposition rally. If convicted, Huseynov could be sentenced to up to five years in jail.

A video of Huseynov's arrest is here.

Azeri civic organizations and opposition groups staged a series of unauthorized rallies during Eurovision to direct attention to human rights abuses.

In a statement, Max Tucker, Azerbaijan campaigner for AI, said “Mehman’s arrest signals the start of the widely predicted government crackdown on those they consider responsible for negative publicity during Eurovision. The continued reluctance of European leaders to condemn shocking rights violations in this oil-rich country gives the authorities leeway to exact their revenge.”

According to AI, Huseynov is now the seventh journalist in custody in Azerbaijan.

AI's statement is here.