Police in Azerbaijan detained over 30 people Friday when a group of opposition protesters held a small rally in central Baku on the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest final.
The gathering on a busy promenade beside the Caspian Sea in the glitzy capital was called by the Public Chamber opposition alliance which brings together the main opposition parties in the energy-rich nation.
An AFP correspondent counted about 36 protesters who were grabbed from the crowd of several dozen people by police officers. Some people shouted "Freedom!" but did not brandish any protest signs.
Police put the detained people in vans parked right next to a coach decorated in Eurovision colours. One young woman screamed as she was shoved into the vehicle.
Many arrests were made by officers in plain clothes and among those held was a photojournalist from opposition newspaper Azadliq.
The busy public place filled with journalists and observers, including some representatives of Europe's security body OSCE, as police officers struggled to identify more protesters in the crowd.
"What we are truly seeing here is a totalitarian regime that cracks down on anything that looks like opposition," he told AFP.
Azerbaijan has pulled out all the stops to put on the international Eurovision song contest decorating its Caspian capital with contest insignia and constructing the glamorous Crystal Hall venue.
But the festivities have been overshadowed this week by arrests of dozens of opposition supporters who have seized on the opportunity to draw attention to the country's rights record and issues like political prisoners.
Source: AFP Global Edition