A group is reportedly targeting websites related to the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan in protest at a ‘parade of homosexuals’ it believes will take place at the event.

The independent Escotoday website, which publishes news about the Eurovision Song Contest, was believed to have been taken down by a denial-of-service attack today.

In April, the official Eurovision website experienced a similar attack.

Escotoday’s website currently redirects to their Facebook page, where a statement says: “ESCTODAY WAS HACKED, in a second thousands of hours of hard work (actually 12 years) were erased as retaliation because we support the Eurovision Song Contest, a ”gay pride” as the hacker(s) call it. We will not be stopped!!! WE WILL BE BACK.”

According to Eurovision-interest site Esckaz.com, a group calling itself “The Devotees of Azerbaijan” was taking responsiblity.

It said: “Ignoring its people’s honor and morals, Azerbaijan’s ruling regime is trying to spread ungodly (sinful) thoughts, and plans to arrange a parade of the homosexuals before the eurovision sound contest 2012. [sic]

“For that reason, “The Devotees of Azerbaijan” group wants to cyber-attack the websites supporting this unethical act”.

Azerbaijan won the right to host the contest, reportedly known to some as the “gay world cup”, this year after Ell & Nikki won in 2011.

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 2001, LGBT people in the Muslim country are said to still suffer oppression and harassment. They cannot marry and have no legal protection against discrimination.

The 2012 event was seen as an opportunity for the contest to “move towards openness” by the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

Iran has reacted angrily to rumours of a gay pride parade at the event on 26 May, though there are no plans to hold such a march.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said last month: “The possible gay parade in Azerbaijan is particularly troubling for the religious establishment in Iran, given the fact that over 85% of the Azeri population follow Shiite Islam, making Azerbaijan -along with Bahrain, Iran and Iraq- one of the few countries with Shiite majority.

“A combination of religious bonds, historic ties — Azerbaijan was part of Iran till early 18th century, when Tehran lost the territory to an expanding Russian empire — and linguistic commonality — one third of Iranians speak Azeri — has sparked a national anxiety over the imminent gay parade in Baku.”

Iranian Ayatollah Shabestari is reported to have said the imagined parade would have attracted “all sorts of anti-Islamic groups and perverts”.