Azerbaijani opposition calls off planned weekend protest

The opposition coalition Azadliq, or Freedom, on Friday called off a planned weekend protest against the outcome of last month's parliamentary elections, which it claims were fraudulent. An opposition representative said that authorities had given permission to the coalition to hold Saturday's rally at a remote venue outside the Baku city limits, and that Azadliq had requested a more central site for a rally next weekend.

"We consider this proposal (of the venue) by the mayor's office as a refusal, and so the bloc has decided to postpone the rally until Dec. 10," Hasan Kerimov, the deputy head of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, told The Associated Press.

He said that Azadliq had requested that next week's protest be held at the square outside the Gelebe Cinema, still not close to the city center, but more easily reachable by public transport. The mayor's office said it had offered the coalition a car racing track outside Baku "in connection with the serious legal violations" during last weekend's opposition protest by about 15,000 people. That meeting was broken up by truncheon-wielding police who moved in after opposition activists refused to leave the site at the time the city had given to end the rally and called for a sit-in.

Meanwhile, the newly elected parliament elected in the disputed Nov. 6 elections convened for the first time on Friday, with six of eight opposition lawmakers boycotting, and all but one of the 106 legislators present voted to elect Oqtay Asadov as speaker, reports the AP. I.L.

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