US media reported last month that interns with ties to the regime of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev have been working for years in the German parliament (Bundestag). The article says that the network of Azerbaijani interns has helped consolidate Aliyev’s influence abroad. According to the VICE investigation:
June 8, 2020 In the Bundestag, the German parliament, interns with ties to the regime of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev have been working in the centre of power for years. They are employed by MPs, some of whom themselves maintain connections with the country in the South Caucasus. The system that underpins these connections is large and complex, with many players: a renowned Berlin university that receives hundreds of thousands of euros from Azerbaijan; members of almost all parties in the German parliament; and the embassies of two countries. They all help to ensure that interns with close ties to the Aliyev regime were employed in the heart of German democracy. Aliyev leads an authoritarian regime that mistreats and imprisons opposition figures and persecutes journalists. He has ruled for almost 20 years, and last year he waged a bloody war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. This network of Azerbaijani interns is spread across several parliamentary groups. It helps Aliyev, who likes to appear in public dressed in camouflage and appointed his wife as his deputy by decree a few years ago, consolidate his influence abroad to the disadvantage of the opposition in Baku. Interns in the Bundestag are given a pass that gives them access to most places: to the offices of members of parliament, committees, and meeting rooms.
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The VICE investigation also indicates that a former Azerbaijani intern later developed an extensive business relationship with German MP Steffen-Claudio Lemme, who in 2020 observed the parliamentary elections in Baku on his own initiative. Contrary to statements by official OSCE election observers, Lemme claimed: “no violations were recorded.”
In April, we reported on an Azerbaijani influence campaign centered on conservative German politicians: The country had spent large sums of money attempting to buy itself a better image in Germany through sponsoring sporting events, the use of a small German television station, as well the bribery of elected officials.
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