Azerbaijan : Fresh arrests evoke chilling memories for Azeri LGBT+

TBILISI, April 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police in Azerbaijan arrested four transgender sex workers this week in raids reminiscent of a mass crackdown in 2017 by the former Soviet state on its LGBT+ community, lawyers and rights activists said on Wednesday.

The arrests and abuses two years ago sparked global outcry and raised questions about minority rights and free expression in the mostly Muslim, Caucasian nation.

Activists hoped that speedy intervention this time would prevent a replay. Azeri police and the interior ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the arrests.

Local LGBT+ group Minority said the four detained were verbally abused by authorities, forced to undergo medical tests for sexually transmitted diseases but not physically maltreated.

Prostitution is illegal in Azerbaijan but LGBT+ sex-workers are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement, said Samad Rahimli, a Baku-based human rights lawyer, who had been directly in touch with two of those detained.

One person was held in a sting operation after being called to a hotel in the capital by a client only to find police waiting instead, he said. Circumstances surrounding the other detentions were not clear, he added. Read more via Reuters