Azerbaijani police raid offices of independent TV station

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijani police on Wednesday raided the offices of a TV station, the interior ministry said, in the latest sign of a crackdown on independent media.

In a statement, the ministry gave no reason for the operation at Toplum TV. A Reuters reporter saw police closing down roads around the outlet's office in the capital, Baku, and preventing journalists from filming. A Toplum staffer told Reuters that 10 employees were taken away by police.

Azerbaijan has detained a string of independent reporters since late last year. Several are now facing trial on charges unrelated to journalistic activity, such as smuggling.

The authorities say the journalists have real cases to answer. In January, the foreign ministry accused the European Union's ambassador of interference in the judicial system after he said he was "appalled" by reports of the way journalists were being treated.

In February, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was re-elected with more than 92% of the vote, in an election criticised by Western observers as neither free nor fair.

Aliyev, who succeeded his father as president in 2003, has enjoyed a surge of popularity since September, when his army recaptured the region of Nagorno-Karabakh from ethnic Armenians who had run it as a breakaway statelet for three decades.

The Reporters Without Borders press freedom organisation ranks Azerbaijan 167th out of 180 countries for media freedom worldwide.

(Reporting by Reuters, Writing by Felix Light in Tbilisi; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Ed Osmond)