BAKU (Reuters)–Opposition parties in Azerbaijan vowed Monday to push ahead with protests to try to oust President Haydar Aliyev–even though some activists were beaten at weekend rallies.
Twenty-three parties signed a declaration forming the "Movement for Democracy" umbrella group designed to remove Aliyev. The parties called for a united front and said they would not be deterred by the weekend beatings.
An opposition rally is planned in the capital–Baku–on November 17 to mark the 10th anniversary of the independence movement in the Caspian Sea oil state–which eventually won sovereignty from the Soviet Union in 1991.
"Terror and violence cannot stop the end of the dictatoral regime in the country. Haydar Aliyev is afraid of a union of opposition forces," said former President Abulfaz Elchibey–whose Popular Front signed the declaration.
The National Independence Party of Etibar Mamedov–a leading opposition force–did not sign up.
Mamedov–a bitter Aliyev critic–usually distances himself from other opposition parties although he says he also intends to continue to organize and take part in protests.
Mamedov finished second to Aliyev in last month’s presidential election and accused the 75-year old leader of manipulating the voting–in which he secured a runaway victory. The Azeri leadership denies the charge.
Riot troops used batons on Saturday to beat protesters–led by Mamedov–who tried to assemble for a march through Baku.
The organizers said at least 14 protesters were injured and 15 arrested. They said 12 had been given jail terms of between five and 10 days.
A least 10 policemen were also reported hurt.
On Sunday–men in plain clothes beat protesters led by several other opposition parties after a rally in Baku.
Organizers of the attempted rally said the beatings were carried out by a group with close ties to Aliyev. Officials allied to Aliyev denied any role in the beatings–but witnesses said riot police did nothing to stop the assaults.
Aliyev–who ran Azerbaijan in the Soviet era as its Communist chief–has sometimes been criticized abroad for human rights abuse.