Late Deputy Chairman of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Vagif Abdullayev (file photo)
Thousands of people have poured into the streets in the Azeri capital to commemorate the death of the deputy head of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan while in custody.
Azeri Muslims in Baku marched on August 22 to the cemetery where Vagif Abdullayev is buried to mark the country’s first "Hijab martyr,” forty days after his death.
Abdullayev was arrested along with other six members of the Islamic Party in January 2011 on charges which many dismissed as aimed to slander and defame the anti-Zionist politician.
His arrest came amid the government’s continued clampdown on Muslim clerics and activists protesting Baku’s ban on Islamic Hijab in schools and demolition of mosques, which has seen the detention of many religious figures on false charges.
In October, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison while his health condition was deteriorating due to his asthma, and eventually died of a heart attack in jail on July 12.
Addressing the mourners, Haji Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, the head of the Center for Protection of Freedom of Conscience and Faith, described the pressure imposed on Muslims in Azerbaijan as part of an Israeli scheme.
He said Azeris’ support for the Palestinian cause and the Lebanese during Israel’s 33-day war against the country in 2006 has raised fears among Tel Aviv’s Zionist leaders and prompted them to attempt to suppress the Islamic sentiments in Azerbaijan.
Novruzov Fuzuli Novruz, another member of Azerbaijani Islamic Party, died of a suspicious heart attack last week in Correctional Facility No.16 of the Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Service.
Novruzov had also been jailed on similar charges as those pushed against Abdullayev.
An investigation has been launched in the circumstances surrounding Abdullayev's death. The government and prison officials have so far declined to comment on the issue.