Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 98

. Two former senior officials of the Popular Front government (1992-1993) have been jailed in Azerbaijan. Former Internal Affairs Minister Iskender Hamidov has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for abuse of office, embezzlement, and unlawful release of jailed criminals for combat duty on the Karabakh front. Former Foreign Minister Tovfik Hasimov, his immunity from prosecution rescinded by the parliament, has been arrested on charges of involvement in the March 1995 police revolt and abortive coup d’etat.

In another development, Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court has rescinded as unconstitutional a recent judicial decision which had banned the Communist Party for activities contravening the country’s independence. (14)

The PF and the CP are considered the country’s strongest opposition parties. Hamidov, who more recently led an nationalist pan-Turkic organization, claimed at the beginning of the war in Chechnya to have sent scores of armed volunteers there to join the resistance. Those claims were never substantiated. Hasimov, however, is one of the Popular Front’s most effective political leaders and was counted upon for the upcoming electoral campaign. The Communist Party says that it will contest the elections independently for lack of allies in the country. Its former first secretary and Azerbaijani SSR president, Ayaz Mutalibov, now residing in Moscow, says that he considers himself the legitimate president of Azerbaijan, condemns incumbent president Haidar Aliyev for "playing" the oil, Western, Turkish, and Islamic "cards," and insists that "Azerbaijan’s independence lies in cooperation with Russia." (15) Azerbaijan has requested Mutalibov’s extradition on charges of conspiring in successive attempts at coups d’etat in Azerbaijan. To better protect him, Russia has recently granted Mutalibov political asylum.

Japan Expands Lending to Uzbekistan.