LEADING AZERI JOURNALIST ARRESTED

BAKU 28 Oct. (IPS) Authorities in Azerbaijan have arrested Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition Yeni Musavat newspaper, alleging that he helped organize post-presidential election disturbances in the capital Baku, the informed internet website Eurasianet reported.

According to Eurasianet, the arrest occurred as the executive committee of the opposition Musavat Party formally refused to recognize the results of the 15 October Presidential election that confirmed the victory of Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the 42 years-old son of Heydar Aliyev, the present Azeri President who is hospitalised in the United States.

Prior to being jailed, Arifoglu, who is also a top Musavat Party official, spent almost 4 hours answering questions from Azerbaijani prosecutors, the Turan news agency reported October 27. According to Arifoglu’s attorney, Samad Panahov, the newspaper editor was charged with two criminal code violations, including conspiracy to organize an unauthorized demonstration.

The editor faces up to 90 days in jail, Panahov told Turan.

Arifoglu’s arrest underscores that the government’s crackdown against opposition activists is ongoing. Hundreds have been arrested in connection with the rioting that followed Ilham’s hotly disputed victory that some International observers said was tainted by fraud.

One of the prime targets of government pressure has been Mr. Isa Gambar, the Musavat Party leader, who finished a distant second to Aliyev in the official Central Election Commission voting results. Some exit polls, however, indicated that Gambar should have received more votes than Aliyev.

On 27 October 27, the Musavat Party executive committee, or divan, held its first session since the election and voted not to recognize the election results "due to [their] total falsification", Turan reported.

Gambar, who has been under virtual house arrest since the election, did not participate in the session, which was chaired by the party’s first deputy chairman, Vurgun Eyyub. According to Turan, 17 of the executive committee’s 24 members participated in the session.

"We urge all the parties to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from further violence", State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, referring to post-election unrest and the detention of scores of opposition figures.

Boucher repeated concerns expressed last week by the department about flaws that cast doubt on the credibility of the election results.

"These included inaccurate and incomplete voter lists, cases of coercion and other irregularities", he told reporters, calling for "immediate, independent, thorough and transparent investigation of all the violations".

Police in the oil-rich republic of Azerbaijan arrested score of people who demonstrated against the results, urging for another round of elections.

Mr. Aliyev won more than 76.8 percent of the vote in last week's election while Gambar, his nearest rival, garnered just under 14 percent, according to official final results. ENDS AZERI JOURNALIST ARRESTED 281003