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Azerbaijan condemns Loreen's activist meeting

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Azerbaijan condemns Loreen's activist meeting
15:08 CEST+02:00
Hosts of the Eurovision song contest, Azerbaijan, has condemned the alleged "politicisation" of the glitzy song contest after Swedish entrant Loreen - hotly tipped as a possible winner - met with human rights activists on Wednesday.

"These are people who have been through a lot and they should get to tell their stories. There will be press present and they will get to tell the truth. It will be the other side of the front that is being shown. It is a strong front, it is as beautiful as anything, but what happens in the cracks?" Loreen said to news agency TT at the time of the meeting.

According to daily Expressen, the meeting carried on without any problems but an article written by the Azerbaijani news agency APA claiming that Swedish ambassador Mikael Eriksson had told Loreen to make "political statements" from the Eurovison stage.

This has caused the senior presidential administration official Ali Hasanov to tell local media that the EBU should prevent such meetings with "anti-Azerbaijani" groups.

"The European Broadcasting Union must intervene in this issue and stop these politicised actions," Hasanov told Trend news agency.

However, the Swedish foreign ministry denies that the ambassador has told Loreen to make any statements.

"There is no substance to the rumour that the ambassador has asked Loreen to make any political statements," said Theo Zetterman at the ministry to Expressen.

The Azerbaijani authorities want to use Eurovision to win international acclaim for the energy-rich, mainly Muslim state of 9.2 million people.

But the pop contest has also drawn unprecedented attention to allegations that Aliyev's government jails opponents, persecutes journalists, cracks down on protests and suppresses free speech.

A small protest with around 100 opposition supporters in Baku was broken up by police Monday on the eve of the first Eurovision semi-final.

The second semi-final takes place later on Thursday, with the grand final on Saturday.

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