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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Newspaper, Party Lose Offices

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azerbaijani authorities threw a leading opposition party and newspaper out of their offices Saturday, removing furniture and equipment a day after a court ordered the evictions.

A journalists' union leader called the move part of a government campaign to silence dissent, and the United States expressed dismay.

About 100 police surrounded the building housing the editorial offices of Azadliq, the largest opposition newspaper, and the Popular Front, a main opposition party, while law enforcement officers removed the organizations' property and carted it away in trucks.

Azadliq, which leases the building in central Baku, had been warned it would have to leave its offices along with the other tenants after a government property committee demanded thousands of dollars in back rent.

"There is no doubt that a deliberate, targeted policy is being carried out with the aim of ensuring that everyone thinks identically -- and that if somebody does not, that he stays silent," said Elchin Shykhlinsky, the head of the Union of Journalists of Azerbaijan.

The eviction came one day after Azerbaijan's first independent television station, ANS television, was pulled from the air by the government. Authorities said the station had not extended its license.

The U.S. Embassy said it was "disturbed and dismayed" by the evictions and the decision not to renew the license of ANS.