Azerbaijan’s national security authorities have handed over to the Russian authorities in the Dagestan republic a list of 96 individuals who have been banned from entering Azerbaijan. Most of them are ethnic Lezgin residents of Dagestan, including active members of the Lezgin organization Sadval which is active on both sides of the border between the Russian Federation’s Dagestan republic and Azerbaijan. The move follows last week’s sentencing of two Lezgins to death and five others to prison terms by Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court for a deadly bomb attack in the Baku subway (see Monitor, May 6) and the April 21 arrest in Azerbaijan of five Lezgins from Dagestan, including a prominent clergyman, on sedition charges. The government of Dagestan responded yesterday by claiming that Azerbaijan is required to submit to the authorities of the Russian Federation detailed justifications for each of the 96 cases. Dagestan also demanded that Russian Federation representatives be invited to attend any penal proceedings against the five detained. Dagestan has officially asked Russia’s Foreign Ministry to intercede in what it termed "repeated cases of persecution of Dagestan residents by Azerbaijan." (Interfax, May 7)
Lezgins reside compactly on both sides of the border and do not have a territorial formation of their own in either Azerbaijan or Dagestan. Sadval aspires to unify the Lezgins into one territorial entity. Russian authorities have at times sought to channel Lezgin irredentism against Azerbaijan, sometimes hiding behind Dagestan’s authorities in doing so.
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