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Rights groups slam 'repressive' Azerbaijan ahead of European games

People walking outside the National Stadium in Baku on October 17, 2014Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Wednesday condemned the persecution of dissidents in Azerbaijan as the country prepares to host the first European Games, urging the release of imprisoned journalists and activists. The watchdogs criticised efforts by the oil-rich ex-Soviet nation to present a squeaky-clean image to the international community ahead of the Games in June, while it was guilty of what they said were human rights violations by strongman President Ilham Aliyev’s government. Amnesty released a 30-page report entitled “Guilty of Defending Rights: Azerbaijan’s human rights defenders and activists behind bars”, 100 days before the start of the first continent-wide sporting event organised by the European Olympic Committees.

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