In a rare, authorized rally just outside the capital of Azerbaijan, host of next month's Eurovision Song Contest, thousands of protesters have called for new elections and democratic reforms.
Some 5,000 Azerbaijanis protested Sunday near the venue for next month's Eurovision Song Contest, demanding greater freedoms, release of political prisoners and elections.
Organized by the Public Chamber opposition coalition, protestors demanded the resignation of President Ilham Aliyev. Aliyev succeeded his father, Haidar, in 2003 and has been accused of election fraud and civil rights abuses.
The venue for the demonstration was the suburban Bailovo district, where the Eurovision Song Contest will be held from May 22-26. Protests are banned in the center of the capital, Baku, but government permission was given for this rally to go ahead.
"We demand fundamental reforms, or the people might rise against the ruling regime," Popular Front party leader Ali Kerimly told the rally. "We demand snap parliamentary elections and the release of political prisoners."
Opposition parties complain of a lack of democratic rights and free speech in the mainly Muslim, oil and gas rich country. Demonstrations in April were put down by the authorities and a number of protestors remain in jail.
Eurovision is seen as a showcase opportunity for the country. A crystal palace which can hold 25,000 fans has been built especially for the event.
jm/acb (AFP, dpa)