BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Several hundred people rallied Saturday in the center of Azerbaijan's capital in protest at the death earlier this month of military conscript.
Many participants at the rally, which was organized through social media, held up photos of 18-year-old Jeyhun Gubadov, who authorities say died of heart failure. Gubadov's mother says he was the victim of physical mistreatment.
Police ordered demonstrators to disperse and later forcibly broke up the gathering. Officials say several people were detained, but gave no specific number.
Anti-government rallies take place from time to time in the oil-rich former Soviet nation, and the meetings are almost always immediately broken up by police. Unusually, this meeting was organized entirely on online social media and involved none of the country's few embattled opposition parties.
Most of those involved in the rally were young people and soldiers' mothers.
In apparent recognition of the public indignation provoked by the Gubadov case, Defense Ministry officials said two people have been arrested and several high-ranking military officials punished over the death.
Protests are as a rule paid scant notice in state media, but this rally did earn some coverage and official comment.
Mubariz Gurbanly, a leading parliamentary deputy in the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, told the APA state news agency that the voice of protesters had been heard. He warned against individuals with their own political agendas taking advantage of public outrage, however.
Authorities are wary of any signs of public dissent, particularly in view of this October's presidential election, which is expected to see incumbent Ilham Aliyev easily retain his iron grip over the Caspian Sea nation.