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Azerbaijan to try 29 over Eurovision plot

BAKU (AFP) — Twenty-nine people will go on trial in Azerbaijan for allegedly plotting a wave of attacks that included a plan to assassinate President Ilham Aliyev during last year's Eurovision Song Contest, a court said on Thursday.

"The trial is starting for the last group of suspects accused of trying to organise acts of terror and also an attempt on the life of the president of Azerbaijan during the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku," documents from Baku's court for serious crimes said.

The preliminary hearing has been set for July 2, the documents said.

At least seven people have already been sentenced to lengthy prison terms over the alleged plot in the ex-Soviet state.

The court documents said the suspected ringleader had been killed during an operation to arrest him on the eve of the glitzy pop extravaganza in May last year.

Azerbaijan's security ministry announced after the event that it had foiled a bid to stage "terrorist" attacks during Eurovision and had arrested more than 40 suspects.

The ministry said at the time that the group had links with neighbouring Iran and was planning attacks on the concert hall where Eurovision was held, police buildings, hotels used by foreigners, mosques and other religious sites in the Caucasus state.

Eurovision, watched by more than 100 million people worldwide, was the biggest cultural event staged in Azerbaijan since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The run-up to the competition was marked by demonstrations by opposition activists against the country's poor record on human rights, which saw dozens of people detained by police.