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Azerbaijan arrests Facebook campaigners


Azerbaijan has arrested five young democracy activists for trying to organise a nationwide day of protest through the Facebook social network, the opposition said Wednesday.


"A campaign of young activists' arrests is under way. The authorities are using illegal methods to suppress the opposition," Isa Gambar, the leader of the opposition Musavat party, told French press agency AFP on Wednesday.

He said Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, Sakhavat Soltanli, Jabar Savalan, Dayanat Babaev and Rasadat Akhundov, have been arrested, under "ridiculous accusations of hooliganism", such as speaking loudly on the telephone in a public place.

Soltanli and Akhundov were the latest to be arrested. Hajiyev, who had been arrested twice previously in recent months, has been sentenced to one month in prison.

In a statement issued after Hajiyev's arrest, the US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Matthew Bryza, said he would continue to monitor this case closely.

Local media said Hajiyev was listed as one of the creators of a Facebook page, similar to those that helped build massive protests across the Arab world, talking of a "people's revolution" in Azerbaijan.

The activists have called the "Great People's Day in Azerbaijan" for Friday. "We are on the road of democracy and intend to follow this road till the end," the group’s Facebook page says.

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