The judicial proceedings against Popular Front leader Abulfaz Elchibey, the former president of Azerbaijan, have been dropped. President Haidar Aliev “recommended” this step on February 10, and state prosecutors complied on February 11. Elchibey had been indicted for slandering the head of state, and faced a prison term of up to six years if found guilty. He had, in a statement last November, accused Aliev of having been instrumental in creating the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during the 1970s as part of Soviet policies to undermine Turkey.
Elchibey was never able to substantiate his assertion, and sought to qualify it during the judicial proceedings. The Popular Front and its allies picketed the court building during the proceedings and threatened to call mass demonstrations if Elchibey were convicted. They also described the case against Elchibey as a major stumbling block to the political dialogue which the authorities are offering to hold with the opposition. Having discontinued the case, the authorities hope to advance toward that dialogue (Turan, February 11).
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