EU concern over events in Azerbaijan mounted today following a series of arrests including that of the YOX youth movement leader Razi Nurallayev. Jan Marinus Wiersma, vice-president of the European Parliament Socialist Group, said: "These arrests could be confirmation of a pattern of intimidation of the opposition in the run-up to parliamentary elections in November." Mr Wiersma called on Azerbaijan’s authorities to provide details of the circumstances of Mr Nurallayev’s arrest. Said Mr Wiersma, who is responsible for Group policy on the wider Europe: "I am demanding assurances that he is being treated properly."
Mr Wiersma said the youth leader was engaged in the struggle for democracy in a country whose lack of freedom has been criticised by the leading American peace and democracy campaign body Freedom House. He added: "In the light of recent statements by the Azerbaijan government, outlining their intention to create closer relations with the EU, the authorities in Baku should be aware that arresting opposition members is contrary to the basic values of the EU."
Mr Nurallayev last weekend attended an Amsterdam conference with Mr Wiersma. The conference was organised by the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity.