YEREVAN (AFP)–Armenia rejected Friday accusations from Azerbaijan that its secret police were involved in an alleged plot to overthrow the government in Baku.
Azeri prosecutors said Thursday that a youth opposition leader had been arrested for planning to overthrow the government in a plot allegedly hatched by a prominent US non-governmental organization–Armenia’s secret police and local opposition groups.
"It is funny and bears no relation to reality," said Lieutenant-General Gorik Akopyan–director of Armenia’s national security service.
He said the charge looked like an effort by security officials in Baku to solve domestic political problems "with long-forgotten methods used in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s."
The arrest of Ruslan Bashirli came after a member of the Yeni Fikir youth movement that he leads informed authorities that Bashirli had received 2,000 dollars (1,600 euros) in a secret meeting with Armenian agents.
The arrest was denounced by opposition leaders as an attempt by Azeri authorities to smear their groups.
An Azeri youth movement denounced the arrest of its leader as a government smear campaign ahead of elections.
"The authorities are trying to link the youth movement to Armenian operatives in order to crush it," said Fikret Farmazogly–the deputy leader of Yeni Fikir. "This is slander."
The arrest came amid increasing government pressure on opposition political parties ahead of parliamentary elections in November.
"This is an attempt by the authorities to discredit the youth movement," said Ali Kerimli–who leads the National Front party. "They are trying to prevent the youth from fighting for democratic freedoms."
Azerbaijan recently relaxed a crackdown on the opposition after heavy Western pressure–allowing anti-government groups to openly demonstrate this summer for the first time since 2003.
The new arrest raises concerns that the oil-rich state will clamp down on opposition activity again ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for November.