Azerbaijan detains dissident over books by Erdogan’s foe

Azerbaijan has detained a senior opposition figure for allegedly possessing books by Gulen

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Azerbaijan has detained a senior opposition figure for allegedly possessing books by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Baku’s ally Turkey accuses of masterminding last month’s coup.

Azerbaijan, a mainly Muslim but secular ex-Soviet state on the Caspian Sea, has launched a crackdown on supporters of the cleric, whom Turkey accuses of masterminding the July 15 coup bid.

Faig Amirov - an aide to Ali Kerimli, the leader of the Popular Front opposition party - is being held on suspicion of inciting religious hatred and faces up to five years in jail, his lawyer Agil Layijev told AFP on Sunday.

Investigators said they found books by Gulen in the boot of the opposition figure’s car. Amirov, who is also the financial director of the main opposition newspaper, claims the books were planted after investigators pulled him in for questioning on Saturday, according to his lawer.

Amirov says the books are not banned in Azerbaijan, and claims he has not make any statements that could be legitimately seen as inciting hatred, his lawyer added.

Opposition leader Kerimli told AFP that Amirov was detained in his flat on Saturday morning by security officers in plain clothes who then searched his home.Amirov’s Azadlig (Freedom) opposition newspaper issued a statement saying the future of both the paper and freedom of speech in the country was under threat.

Kerimli says the authorities have stepped up a “repressive campaign targeting me personally, the party and the newspaper,” using the pretext of a “made-up case” about links to Turkish preacher Gulen.
Baku on Friday said it had arrested four men over suspected ties to the preacher, accusing one of keeping copies of his speeches at his home.

Last month Azerbaijan shut down a private television channel over plans to broadcast an interview with Gulen, “in order to avoid provocations aimed at damaging the strategic partnership between Turkey and Azerbaijan”.

Baku earlier this month opened a criminal investigation into supporters of Gulen, who has consistently denied any involvement in the failed putsch.