Protestors arrested in Azerbaijan ahead of Eurovision Song Contest

Over 70 people taken into custody yesterday evening (May 25), say reports

There have been mass arrests of protestors in Azerbaijan ahead of this evening’s Eurovision Song Contest, according to reports.

Over 70 people were taken into custody by police in Baku, says the Telegraph, after they staged a demonstration outside the Eurovision venue Crystal Hall.

The protestors demanded the release of political prisoners and democratic freedoms before they were apprehended by plain-clothes police officers. Human Rights researcher Giorgi Gogia, who visited some of the activists inside prison, said:

There were about 60 men in a 12x12m cell, they could barely move let alone sit. People were given a bit of undrinkable water and no food.

Earlier this week (May 24), the European Parliament passed a resolution requesting an “immediate stop to all actions aimed at supressing the freedom of expression and assembly in Azerbaijan”, a decision which was described as Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Elman Abdullayev as “part of a continuing campaign to politicse the Eurovision”. The government has been under criticism for allegations that they forcibly evicted families from their homes so they could be demolished to make way for Crystal Hall.

Human rights activist Fuad Hasanov claimed that the authorities’ approach would have been even more heavy-handed if they weren’t under such intense media scrutiny ahead of tonight’s competition. “If the Eurovision was not being held here right now, in the presence of the international media, I am sure that the consequences would be much worse,” he said.

The UK will be represented by Engelbert Humperdinck at the ceremony. The crooner will be hoping that his entry, a track named ‘Love Will Set You Free’, will fare better than last year’s representatives Blue – the refomed boyband only managed to finish 11th with their track ‘I Can’. The last UK act to win the Eurovision Song Contest was Katrina And The Waves, who took first place in 1997 with their track ‘Love Shine A Light’.

Earlier this month, (May 17), meanwhile, Hurt’s Theo Hutchcraft revealed that they had been approached to write this year’s entry. However, the song ended up being penned instead by Grammy award-winning producer Martin Terefe and Sacha Skarbek, who co-wrote Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born To Die’ and James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’.