BAKU (Reuters)–Former Azeri President Abulfaz Elchibey went on trial Monday for accusing his successor Haydar Aliyev of helping found the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)–long banned by Turkey as a terrorist organization.
The Azeri Justice Ministry said the claim–which Elchibey made at a news conference–amounted to slander and damaged the dignity of President Aliyev.
"Elchibey’s statement about the alleged role of Haydar Aliyev in the founding of the PKK is premeditated slander designed to damage (Aliyev’s) authority," said a Justice Ministry official–who declined to be named.
Ironically–Aliyev is convalescing in a Turkish military hospital at President Suleyman Demirel’s invitation after going down with what has been described as a bout of bronchitis and a severe viral infection.
Elchibey–greeted by more than 100 supporters–was in a jubilant mood as he arrived at a Baku city court house to face the charge filed by Justice Minister Sudaba Hasanova–acting in her constitutional role as the defender of the presidency.
He says he can prove that Aliyev–who ran Azerbaijan as its Soviet Communist chief in the 1970s and 1980s and sat on the ruling Soviet Politburo–helped found the PKK.
"My statement concerning Aliyev is based on materials which I possess and I am ready to present them to the court. But I regard this as a political question which should be decided through discussion," he told reporters.
Elchibey condemned the court proceedings as politically motivated and said there was little hope they would be fair or impartial. If found guilty–he could be sentenced to up to six years.
Elchibey–a professor of oriental studies–was elected the Caspian Sea oil state’s first president in 1992 but fled a military revolt in which rogue units marched on Baku a year later.
Aliyev–then parliamentary speaker–took over as interim leader under the constitution and was then voted in as leader.
Elchibey–who spent four years in internal exile in the country’s remote Nakhichevan region–accused Aliyev of usurping power. He and his pro-nationalist Popular Front political movement have never recognized his rule.