Azerbaijani prosecutors open criminal inquiry into opposition rally

Azerbaijani prosecutors opened a criminal inquiry Wednesday, following violence at a weekend opposition rally at which demonstrators staged an illegal sit-down at a square in the capital.

Prosecutors blamed opposition activists for the violence, saying 46 police officers were injured in clashes with protesters. Police earlier said 18 officers were injured.

"Representatives of opposition parties declared round-the-clock protests and called on the participants to sit down, not leave the square and show mass disobedience, provoking them to resist the authorities by force," the Prosecutor General's office said.

Some 15,000 opposition activists gathered on Saturday in the former Soviet republic's capital, Baku, to protest Nov. 6 parliamentary elections they claimed were rigged. It was the latest in a series of such demonstrations in recent weeks.

Unlike in previous rallies, however, demonstrators refused to leave after the allocated time for the protest and tried to stage a sit-in. Truncheon-wielding riot police beat and dispersed them, AP reported. V.A.

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