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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Lawmakers Criticize Baku

STRASBOURG, France -- The European Parliament on Thursday condemned Azerbaijan's crackdown on opposition protesters ahead of next month's parliamentary elections and called for the immediate release of all activists detained during recent opposition rallies in Baku.

The EU assembly called on the Azeri authorities to respect freedom of assembly and ensure that the Nov. 6 elections are free and fair.

Political tension has been simmering in Azerbaijan ahead of the elections, with opposition groups accusing the government of planning to rig the vote. Opposition activists have been holding rallies nearly every weekend and clashed with police. Several dozen protesters, including two candidates for parliament from the opposition parties, were detained.

"The European Parliament calls for the immediate release of all those detained and asks for a full and fair investigation into the above-mentioned events, including the responsibility of the law enforcement units, and urges Azerbaijan to guarantee the fundamental human rights of detained persons," the assembly said in a resolution, which is nonbinding but is used as a form of political pressure.

The parliament urged the Azeri authorities to take immediate steps to protect journalists following a wave of violence against media employees.