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Azerbaijan police brutally disperse peaceful rally

Azeri riot policemen detain protestors in central Baku on January 26, 2013
Azeri riot policemen detain protestors in central Baku on January 26, 2013. Azerbaijan police on Saturday brutally dispersed an unauthorised rally in central Baku, beating up and arresting scores of people, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Azerbaijan police on Saturday brutally dispersed an unauthorised rally in central Baku, beating up and arresting scores of people, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Several dozen protesters briefly gathered in Baku's central Sahil square to protest against the police using excessive force against peaceful protests.

But police halted the rally within 10 minutes, beating up and arresting dozens of people.

"We gathered to condemn illegal use of force against peaceful protesters," one of the organisers, Radio Liberty journalist and pro-democracy activist Khadija Ismayilova, told AFP by phone.

Ismayilova was among those arrested.

Any display of public discontent or political dissent in the energy-rich ex-Soviet country draws a tough response from the regime of strongman President Ilham Aliyev.

On Thursday police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse thousands of people protesting against the local authorities in the central town of Ismayilli.

Aliyev's government has long been accused of stifling free speech, jailing opponents and crushing dissent.

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