Azerbaijan prosecutors raid US-funded radio station

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Two policemen lead away a protester in Baku in AzerbaijanImage source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
The government in Azerbaijan has been accused of trying to silence its critics

Prosecutors in Azerbaijan have raided the offices of a US-funded radio station in the capital, Baku.

Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said that armed police ordered employees to leave the building of its Azerbaijani service Radio Azadliq.

The raid comes amid a crackdown on journalists and human rights activists in the oil-rich ex-Soviet state.

Earlier this month, Azerbaijani officials arrested an investigative reporter working for Radio Azadliq.

The director of the radio station, Kenan Aliyev, told AFP news agency that armed police had shut the station early on Friday.

"Our equipment and computers are being confiscated," he said. "Journalists are being forced out of the office."

A video posted on Twitter by RFE/RL showed prosecutors and police seizing folders and documents.

The Prosecutor General's Office told AP news agency that the search was conducted to investigate a "grave crime" but would not give any details.

A spokesman for President Ilham Aliyev accused Radio Azadliq of working for a foreign security service in December, just before the arrest of one of its journalists.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Khadija Ismayilova has been in detention since her arrest earlier this month

Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova was arrested earlier in December on charges that she drove a man to commit suicide. She is in pre-trial detention for two months.

In recent months, Azerbaijan has been accused of putting pressure on journalists and activists who have criticised the government for its failure to comply with international human rights standards and for arresting protesters.

Ilham Aliyev was elected for a third term as president in 2013, in a vote that the opposition rejected as fraudulent and undemocratic. Azerbaijan said the vote was fair.