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ELECTION GOES ON WITH MASSIVE VOTER FROUD

The Azeri Times

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5:05 pm

According to the Information Center of the Central Election Commission (CEC), by 3:00 pm today 60.74% of all registered voters in Azerbaijan had cast a ballot, or about 3.2 million people. The head of the CEC, Mazahir Panahov, told journalists that the Commission had not received a single complaint or report of violations.

The polling stations will close at 7:00 pm local time.


4:05 pm

Ballot box stuffing caught on film.


3:01 pm

Journalists report facing obstacles in covering the voting.

An anonymous independent journalist (Nizami, 25th district, polling station #2) was physically assaulted while filming and shoved out of the polling station.

Another anonymous independent journalist (Nizami, 16th district, polling station #14): “One observer and one voter protested, saying they didn’t want me to film at that station. I said that they hadn’t given me that right and they couldn’t take it away from me. According to the Election Code I can film in whichever station I choose. Then they told a few people about me and had them write complaints, as if I was causing a disturbance at the polling station. I said that their complaints only showed half the story, they should add how they had obstructed me from filming. Only then did the station chairman allow me to film.”

Reuters journalist Naila Balayeva (Sabail-Nasimi, 23rd district, polling station #19) says that station chairman Orkhan Musayev told her filming at the station had been banned: “I told [Musayev] that CEC chairman Mazahir Panahov hadn’t issued any such ban. [Musayev] said that a certain Abdulla muallim had said it wasn’t allowed. Try as I might, I couldn’t ascertain who Abdulla muallim was. At nearby polling stations I didn’t have any problems like that. I’m sure that nobody gave [Musayev] such instructions, it was his own personal initiative.”


2:19 pm

According to the Information Center of the Central Election Commission (CEC), by 12:00 pm 39.39% of all registered voters in Azerbaijan had cast a ballot. The Institute for Democratic Initiatives claims that turnout is being artificially inflated by the CEC.


1:50 pm

Ilkin Karimov, a registered independent election observer in the Kurdamir region, says that he has observed only state employees coming to vote at polling stations. (State employees are often forced by their employers to participate in the political process.)

“I was in polling stations #2, 9, and 10 in the 57th district. I assure you that no one is coming to vote. Only state employees are coming: janitors, groundskeepers, teachers, etc. They come, vote, and leave as a group. So far I haven’t seen any one who came to vote alone.”

Karimov also says that many polling stations try to prevent observers from entering. In Kurdamir’s Khirdapay village, he was stopped and questioned as he tried to enter the polling station by an observer named Shafag from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party. “I was let into the station after I made a lot of noise,” Karimov said.


12:29 pm

As of 10:00 this morning, 994,196 people had voted, or 18.71% of registered voters, according to Farid Orujov of the Central Election Commission’s information center.

Polling stations close at 7:00 pm local time.

Заведующий Информационным центром секретариата ЦИК Фарид Оруджев
Farid Orujov, Information Center, CEC.

11:39 am

“The chairman of the polling station let us in on the condition that we don’t get out of our seats.”

Election observers at polling station #37 in Kolayir village’s 94th district (Barda) say that the station’s chairman has threatened them with jail.

“Not only are we unable to carry out a normal observation, [the chairman] has even threatened us with jail. ‘Watch out,’ the chairman said, ‘I’ve had a lot of people arrested. I’ll send you where they went. It would be best if you left the station voluntarily. Or just carry out your observation in a civilized way. Sit in your seats.’ The chairman put us in our seats like we’re school children, soon they’ll probably tell us to keep our hands on our desks. How can we carry out an observation like this?”


11:24 am

An observer at polling station #3 in Shabran-Siyazan’s 54th district has reported ballot stuffing and “carousel” voting.

“In the most recent incident I caught a woman with a bunch of ballots in her hand. I told the chairman that she had 10 ballots in her hand, and the chairman said: ‘Let her put them in, she won’t do it again.’ Like she’s in kindergarten.”

According to the observer, the police have come to the polling station several times to deal with observers who are protesting fraud.

“They’re sending people from the cotton fields to vote. Two trucks full of them. They go from polling station to polling station and vote.”

Ali Zeynal, an observer at polling station #7 in Yasamal’s 17th district has also reported ballot stuffing.

“I saw myself how two people put in multiple ballots. One of them was an election observer. There’s no camera at the station so everyone’s open about it. I’m the only real observer here.”


10:57 am

Modern Musavat Party presidential candidate Hafiz Hajiyev voted for rival candidate, current president Ilham Aliyev, at polling station #31 in Binagadi’s 8th district.

Hafiz Hacıyev
Hafiz Hajiyev.

10:45 am

Ilham Aliyev, current president and presidential candidate from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, has voted at polling station #6 in Sabail’s 29th district. First Lady and FIrst Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva voted with her husband, along with other family members. They did not speak with the press.

Prime Minister Artur Rasizadeh also voted at polling station #29 in II Yasamal’s 16th district.

Voting will end today at 7:00 pm local time.


10:30 am

Ali Zeynal, an election observer at polling stations 5, 6, and 7 in Yasamal’s 17th district, writes that some of the ballot boxes at his stations are not transparent. When Zeynal called the chairman of the polling station and asked why some of the boxes are transparent, and others aren’t, the chairmain said: “Go ask the government, I don’t know.”


10:00 am

Registered election observers wrote to Meydan TV from polling station #57 in the Hajigabul-Kurdamir voting district. Although the station opened at 7:00 am this morning, the observers were told, “Go, you can come back after 8 o’clock.”

“They had a thousand and one excuses not to let us in. Finally, they said we would be allowed in when the rest of the observers arrived. An observer by the name of Orkhan was allowed in after 8 o’clock. Then the rest of us were given permission. How do we know what they were doing inside for the first hour?”

Kurdamir residents informed Meydan TV that state employees in the region were ordered to participate in the elections today and vote for Ilham Aliyev.

 

Meydan.TV

Corruption

UK aims at shady Azerbaijani money – but is it missing the target?

The Azeri Times

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Some have expressed concern that the UK’s first use of the “unexplained wealth order” targeted someone already out of favor with the Azerbaijani government.

The announcement that the wife of an Azerbaijani banker is the first target of British efforts to crack down on foreigners’ illicit wealth was welcomed by good government advocates, but raised concerns that London may only be aiming at figures who are out of favor with their home governments.

On October 10, British media reported that the target of Britain’s first “unexplained wealth order” is Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, the former head of the International Bank of Azerbaijan. The order is a recently introduced instrument allowing British law enforcement officers to demand explanations when a person’s wealth does not correspond to their declared income. It is aimed at cracking down on the vast amounts of ill-gotten wealth – much of it from the former Soviet Union – parked in London.

There is no shortage of dodgy Azerbaijani money in the UK. The investigation into the “Azerbaijani Laundromat,” for example, found that shell companies based in the UK played a key role in the Azerbaijani political elites’ money-laundering and influence-buying operations.

The Hajiyevs, meanwhile, had already been cast out of the Baku political elite: In 2015, Hajiyev was sentenced by an Azerbaijani court to 15 years in prison for misuse of funds.

The government-friendly Azerbaijani press – not typically a fan of stories about Azerbaijanis falling afoul of investigators in the West – widely reported the news about Hajiyeva. “All of England is talking about Zamira Hajiyeva,” crowed a headline on Haqqin.az, a news site connected to Azerbaijan’s security forces.

Two days before the news broke in the UK, in fact, Haqqin had already reported that Hajiyeva was the target of the order. The story cited the Telegram channel Banksta – a Russian-language channel covering banking affairs – but a sister website of Haqqin, Azeri Daily, had named Hajiyev as early as July.

That Hajiyeva was targeted, out of the many potential subjects of the order, raised some consternation among observers.

“There is an interesting issue with the case of Zamira Hajiyeva,” tweeted Anar Mammadli, an Azerbaijani human rights activist. “After all, she and her husband, Jahangir Hajiyev, are not the first Azerbaijani civil servants to buy property in London. Will the other official-families’ ‘contributions’ to the British economy be investigated? After all, they are not alone!”

“What a can of worms,” tweeted John Heathershaw, a professor at the University of Exeter who studies post-Soviet financial ties with the West. “Many thousands more potential cases. Or are we just going to look at those who have fallen out of favour with their home governments?”
“What a can of worms,” tweeted John Heathershaw, a professor at the University of Exeter who studies post-Soviet financial ties with the West. “Many thousands more potential cases. Or are we just going to look at those who have fallen out of favour with their home governments?”

“Hajiyev and his wife have already fallen foul of the system in Azerbaijan. I don’t imagine the Azerbaijani regime will be overly concerned to see this investigation. Who knows, maybe they even had a hand in triggering the investigation,” tweeted analyst Alex Nice.

“My take on the UWO is that it looks like a missed chance to send a big message,” tweeted Oliver Bullough, a journalist who has extensively covered post-Soviet wealth in the UK. “Jahangir Hajiyev had already been jailed in Azerbaijan so why not use the standard asset recovery route, as with Gulnara Karimova? UWOs are supposed to be for assets that can’t be seized otherwise.”

Nevertheless, the move was welcomed by good government advocates. “UWOs should now be used more widely to pursue more of the £4.4 billion worth of suspicious wealth we have identified across the UK,” Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, told the BBC.

And some in the region wondered if their oligarchs would be next. “It seems that investigators from the National Crime Agency started from the letter ‘A,’” joked Uzbekistani writer Hamid Ismailov on twitter. “Uzbek ‘nouveau riches’ might think that they are last in the running order:) in between Uganda and Zambia.”

Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.

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Politics

Political émigré who returned home to visit critically ill father arrested on fraudulent drug-related charges

The Azeri Times

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Azad Hasanov, Musavat party member and political exile living in Lithuania, has been arrested during a short return to his home country and charged with drug trafficking.

According to his lawyer, Osman Kazimov, the Khatai District Court sentenced him to four months in detention on drug-related charges. Under Article 234.4.3 (illegal manufacturing, purchase, storage, transportation, transfer or selling of sale of drugs), Hasanov faces between five and twelve years in prison.

On 11 October, Musavat deputy chairman Sakhavat Soltanli reported that Hasanov had disappeared and was likely arrested. He has been a member of the Surakhany Musavat branch since 2003 and had relocated to Lithuania in 2014, where he was granted political asylum.

He returned to Baku on 10 October, upon learning that his seriously ill father was about to die.

According to his spouse, Tarana Hasanova, he did not have any problems flying into Baku airport: “His father has been seriously ill and is about to die. He arrived on 10 October during the night. He did not have any problems crossing the border and stayed with his father until noon. He later went to the Mosque to pray. That’s where people in civilian clothes stopped him and forced him into a car. When his brother tried to help him, they pushed him aside and told him they are from the police.”

Hasanov’s fate recalls the case of lawyer Emin Aslan who was forced into a car by people in civilian clothes a few days after returning from his studies in the US. He later was found to be held at the Office for Combating Organized Crime, and spent 30 days in detention for failing to obey a police officer’s orders.

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Society

European film festival in Baku: a Dutch cat, a Hungarian horse and a ‘faceless’ French artist

The Azeri Times

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The 9th European Film Festival has officially begun in Baku.

The event is organised by the European Union in Azerbaijan and will end on 21 October, until which time the public is invited to view 19 European films free of charge.

Here are some of the films we recommend:

The documentary film Wild Amsterdam, accompanied by director Mark Verkerk and producer Ignas van Schaick, will be screened at the festival. The film centres around the animals of Amsterdam, but not in a way you might expect: the story is told from the perspective of a cat, who shows us how squirrels, pigeons and waterfowl live in Amsterdam’s canals and parks.

The directors say that the consultation with ecologists and other specialists took half a year by itself. The film is a viewing wonder, dynamic and modern. For example, one scene depicts the retrieval of bicycles from the bottom of the canal with the help of special machinery. The scene looks as if it has been cut right out of a thriller because of how it traumatises the crabs living on the bottom.

The film Kincsem – Bet on Revenge is from Hungary, and also concerns the fate of an animal – a racehorse who belongs to a broke aristocrat forced to earn money through racing. However, the film is not about horseracing, but rather about competition between members of high-class society in the Austrian Empire. The film’s action revolves around the young aristocrat who becomes involved in a dispute with an Austrian officer, whose daughter later falls for the main character.

Barbara, a film by Christian Petzold, is a drama shot in 2012 which takes viewers back to 1980 when Germany was still divided by the Berlin Wall. The main heroine of the film lives in the German Democratic Republic and dreams of leaving. Forced to work in the country and under constant surveillance, she methodically prepares her plan to escape. At first it seems everything will work out and that nobody can prevent her from leaving, including the all-powerful Stasi. However, an inconvenient and unexpected attachment to one of her colleagues jeopardises her escape.

Latvian film Dream Team 1935 by Aigars Grauba was also shot in 2012 and also offers an excursion into the past – to the pre-war period of 1935 when the first European Basketball Championship took place in Geneva. Participation in the championship was a great chance for national teams to go down in sports history. The Latvian team seizes the opportunity, though young trainer Baumanis soon comes to understand that it is far more important to overcome oneself than one’s enemy…

Halima’s Path is the work of Croatian director Arsen Anton Ostoyich, and is dedicated to one of the bloodiest wars of the second half of the 20th century – the war in former Yugoslavia. The action takes place in the post-war years in Bosnia. A woman by the name of Halima who lost her husband and son (though not biological) dreams of finding their remains in order to give them a proper burial. She is only able to do this with the help of DNA analysis. While she is able to find her husband’s remains, she finds it difficult to do so in the case of her son. Halima must then go through some hardship to find the biological mother of her son in order to find him.

The French film See You Up There is also devoted to war and its consequences. This time, the action takes place during World War I. The story begins in the final days of the war, when two young soldiers – an artist from a wealthy family, Edouard, and a former bank employee, Albert – are forced to go to their certain deaths on the orders of a malicious captain. Edouard, whose face has been disfigured, saves Albert, which firmly binds the two friends together: now Edouard is an ‘invisible’ artist, and Albert his impresario.

In addition to film screenings, the festival includes workshops and discussions with European directors.

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