Updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

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Click to view the full list.

A new list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan has just been published. The list now comprises of 80 names, as compared to the 98 which were included in the list published in August last year. In April 2015, the report was updated; the names of the released political prisoners were removed from the list, as well as those new prisoners, who were arrested after the list of 98 political prisoners was prepared, were included in the report.

This report contains a list of cases of those currently detained or imprisoned on politically motivated charges. The list has been drawn up according to the criteria set out in PACE Resolution No. 1900, from 3 October 2012.

To compile this report, a series of consultations were conducted with local human rights defenders who: 1) studied relevant reports of local and international human rights organizations; 2) examined documents from influential international organizations that Azerbaijan is member of, and has commitments to – in particular, the Council of Europe; 3) monitored the press; 4) monitored court cases; 5) examined court verdicts and other legal documents; 5) and interviewed the families, lawyers, and defense committees of the political prisoners included in this report.

The report provides detailed information about each of the political prisoners, including the facts and circumstances of their arrests, political motivations, and photos. (Photos were not available for every prisoner.)

Cases included in the report are divided into seven categories:

  1. Journalists and bloggers
  2. Human rights defenders
  3. Youth activists
  4. Politicians
  5. Religious activists
  6. Life term prisoners
  7. Other cases

The last three categories are divided into subcategories, which are detailed in the report.

Via Norwegian Helsinki Committe

Repression continues in Azerbaijan ahead of European Games

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Ruslan Nesirli, Sadif Gurbanov and Turkel Alisoy, members of the Popular Front Party were arrested shortly after the National Council – the coalition of opposition parties – organized protest on April 5.

On April 6, the chair of the party’s Sabail district branch, Sadif Gurbanov was sentenced to 25 days by the court order. The same day, police arrested another member of the party, Turkel Alisoy. Alisoy was sentenced to 30 days. On April 7, the party’s youth branch member Ruslan Nesirli was also arrested and sentenced to 20 days.

Turkel Alisoy is accused of hooliganism while the other two, Nesirli and Gurbanov for resisting police.

Vice President of the Popular Front Party Gozel Bayramli believes these arrests are the result of their political activities.

In an interview with Azadliq Radiosu, Turkel Alisoy’s brother Eltac said his brother and the rest of the members are arrested because of their activity on the social media platforms like Facebook.

Reported by AzadliqRadiosu

2014: Year of intense government repression in Azerbaijan

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Current political prisoner Khadija Ismayilova stops the car which takes rights defender Intigam Aliyev from court to the detention facility on 8 August. (Photo: Musavat.com)

After 12 months of paralysing attacks on civil society, many prominent critics of Azerbaijani government to enter New Year in prison. See what happened this year in Azerbaijan:

13 January – Advisor of opposite Musavat Party chairman Yadigar Sadigov sentenced to 6-year imprisonment

3 February – President Ilham Aliyev approved amendments to the laws “On the non-governmental organizations (public associations and foundations)” and “On Grants” that made activity of independent NGOs impossible.

17 March – Chairman of Republican Alternative movement Ilgar Mammadov sentenced to 7-year imprisonment and advisor of chairman of opposite Musavat Party member Tofig Yagublu to 5-year imprisonment.

10 April – The Azerbaijani government has refused to renew a major Peace Corps’ program focusing on youth development sector in the country

21 April – Journalist Rauf Mirkadirov deported, arrested and charged with high treason.

6 May – 8 pro-democracy members of NIDA Civic Movement sentenced 6-8 years in jail for exercising their right of freedom of assembly:

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15 May – Journalist Parviz Hashimli was sentenced to eight years in prison.

26 May –  2014 the Court on Grave Crimes has sentenced the two Azerbaijan human rights defenders Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli to respectively 5 years and 6 months imprisonment and 3 years and 6 months.

27 May – Activist Abdul Abilov sentenced 5 years and 6 months in jail for managing critical Facebook page.

30 May – Independent “Ayna”, “Zerkalo” newspapers suspended publication.

2 July – Baku office of National Democratic Institute(NDI) was offically closed.

4 July – 18 years old activist Omar Mammadov was sentenced 5 years in jail for managing critical Facebook page.

17-25 July – Opposite Musavat Party members Siraj and Faraj Karimli brothers arrested.

30 July-5 August – Leading rights defenders Leyla and Arif Yunus were arrested. Office of “Peace and Democracy Institute” sealed off.

2 August – Prominent rights activist Rasul Jafarov was arrested.

8 August – Respected human rights defender Intigam Aliyev was arrested. Office of “Legal Education Society” sealed off.

8 August – Well known journalist Emin Huseynov was forced to hide till now. Office of “Reporters’ Freedom and Safety” sealed off.

21 August – Independent Azerbaijani journalist, Ilgar Nasibov, and his family continue receiving threats after he was brutally attacked by unidentified people.

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29 August – Opposition journalist Seymur Hazi was arrested.

8 October –  IREX ceased its operations in Azerbaijan.

5 December – Well-known investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was arrested for investigating ruling family’s illegal properties and bussiness in offshore zones.

9 December – Independent online channel Meydan TV suspended its activity in Baku.

26 December – RFE/RL Baku Bureau (AzadliqRadiosu) raided, materials seized, office sealed off, some employees forcibly taken to Prosecutor’s office.

Leyla Yunus spent her birthday in prison

Leyla Yunus 2Since 30 July 2014, the human rights lawyer Leyla Yunus of Azerbaijan is in prison. She spent her 52nd birthday in prison on 21 December 2014. Her health has heavily deteriorated whilst in detention. She put in solitary confinement for a day last week without any reason. International organizations repeat their call for her immediate and unconditional release.

The National Council of Democratic Forces in Azerbaijan congratulated Leyla Yunus on her birthday. Activists from different countries and organizations sent open birthday letters to Mrs. Yunus.

Updated: International reactions to Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest

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09.12.2014

UK Minister of State for Europe, David Lidington, blogs on freedom of expression and the media overseas, emphasizes arrest of Khadija Ismayilova:
“Last month I travelled to Azerbaijan, where freedom of expression and the media continues to be threatened. Only last Friday another journalist was arrested and sentenced to pre-trial detention. Khadija Ismailova’s case continues a spell of systematic targeting of journalists often ending in prison sentences being handed out to free speech advocates. But Azerbaijan is far from alone in eroding the freedom of independent media. In fact, apart from the Baltic States, no post-Soviet country is considered by Freedom House’s 2014 annual report to have a free media, and only North Korea fares worse than Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.”
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden urged Azerbaijani government to meet OSCE and CoE commitments on her Twitter page:

Protest rally for arrested journalist Khadija Ismaylova in Tbilisi on December 10: (video by OCCRP Caucasus’ Nino Bakhradze)
Solidarity action in front of Azerbaijani Embassy in Bucharest on December 10, slogan was “Free Khadija”:

 

Statement by the EU  External Action Spokesperson on the arrest of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova:

“The arrest of investigative journalist Ms Khadija Ismayilova by the Azerbaijan authorities last Friday, and her commitment to pre-trial detention on a charge of ‘incitement to suicide’, is a step against the freedom of expression, key to any democratic society.

Azerbaijan needs to stand fully by its international commitments, as a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe, to ensure the freedom of the press. The EU will closely follow developments in Ms Ismayilova’s case.”

Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, an independent, non-judicial institution of the Council of Europe strongly condemns Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest and detention:

“The arrest of Khadija Ismayilova, prominent journalist in Azerbaijan and long-standing partner of my Office, confirms my concerns about the reprisals that human rights defenders and other activists who co-operate with the Council of Europe face in the country.

I strongly condemn her arrest and detention and see it as yet another instance of the selective use of criminal provisions against those expressing critical views in the country.

I last met Khadija in October when I was in Baku and could observe her determination and positive input in defending the rights of those recently detained and many other activists under pressure. Just a few hours before her arrest she had contacted my Office to raise the case of a fellow journalist.

It is high time that the Azerbaijani authorities put an end to this crackdown on human rights and free all those put behind bars because of the opinions they have expressed.” Nils Muiznieks wrote on his Facebook page.

Secretary General Jagland calls for immediate release of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova:

“I am concerned that a Baku court ordered the two-month pre-trial detention of prominent Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Her arrest was unnecessary. It sends a very negative message to the civil society in Azerbaijan and to the international community. It once again puts pressure on journalists and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan and fundamentally contradicts the commitments Azerbaijan undertook when it became a member state of the Council of Europe. I call for the immediate release of Khadija Ismayilova and of the many other Azerbaijani partners of the Council of Europe currently deprived of their liberty,” said Thorbjorn Jagland.

Colleagues, friends protested for imprisoned journalist Khadija Ismayil in front of Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington, DC on December 8, 2014

 

U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Deeply Concerned By Arrest And Detention Of Journalist Khadija Ismayilova:

“I am deeply concerned about the detention of Ms. Ismayilova, who has been the target of unrelenting persecution by the government of Azerbaijan because of her efforts to expose corruption within the country, as well as her advocacy on behalf of political prisoners. The current charges against her are bizarre and only seem designed to silence one of the few independent voices left in Azerbaijan.

Ms. Ismayilova was scheduled to testify in front of the U.S. Helsinki Commission on November 19, 2014, but was prevented from attending due to a government-imposed travel ban related to a different legal case. The current charge levied against Ms. Ismayilova of ‘incitement to suicide’ is just an escalation of the years of harassment by the authorities that she has endured.

As a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Azerbaijan has committed to respecting human rights – including freedom of the media – and the U.S. Helsinki Commission once again calls on the government of Azerbaijan to live up to its promises and immediately end its harassment of all journalists, including Ms. Ismayilova.” said Senator Ben Cardin.

Solidarity action in front of Azerbaijani Embassy in Moldova for release of Khadija Ismayilova:

 

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today has called on the Azerbaijan authorities to immediately release the prominent investigative journalist, Khadija Ismayilova, following the order of a two-month preventative detention.

“This is an absurd charge against Ismayilova by the authorities to silence critical voices in Azerbaijan. It is clearly an another attempt by the government to intimidate journalists like Ismayilova who dare to report the truth and spoke out against the authorities in the country.” said Ricardo Gutiérrez, the EFJ General Secretary.

Investigative Report Preject Italy calls for immediate release of Azeri reporter:

“The decision to hold Khadija in detention was instantly met with outcry from journalists, media organizations, and press freedom activists around the world. Her supporters have been urging people to write to their local Azeri embassy, and to the Azeri prosecutor and government to demand Khadija’s release, and condemn the continued harassment she has suffered in the course of her important investiagtive work. We’d encourage you to do the same.”

Nenad Pejic, the editor in chief of RFE/RL, condemned Ismayilova’s treatment.

“The arrest and detention of Khadija Ismayilova is the latest attempt in a two-year campaign to silence a journalist who has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan,” Pejic said. “The charges brought against her today are outrageous. Khadija is being punished for her journalism.”

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović condemned the arrest of Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismailova.

“The arrest of Ismailova is nothing but orchestrated intimidation, which is a part of the ongoing campaign aimed at silencing her free and critical voice. I repeat my call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to stop this practice, which is detrimental to media freedom,” Mijatović said.

PACE President Anne Brasseur expressed her serious concern abut arrest of investigative journalist.

“Khadija Ismayilova is one the long-standing partners of the Council of Europe. I met her in my office in Strasbourg during the Assembly’s last part session and I was shocked by the information she provided to me regarding pressure and intimidation exercised against her, as well as other human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. Taking into account the recent arrests of prominent human rights defenders – many of whom are valuable partners of the Council of Europe – I have to express my deep concern at her arrest.

As a member state of the Council of Europe, Azerbaijan must respect the standards of the ECHR. Therefore, I urge the competent authorities of Azerbaijan to ensure that the standards of the Convention are respected in any judicial and legal proceedings against Ms Ismayilova as well as against other human rights activists”, declared PACE President.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors condemned the arrest and detention in Baku of prominent Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and called for her speedy release.

“Khadija’s arrest is just another attempt by the Azeri government to silence its critics and restrict press freedom in Azerbaijan,” said Chairman Jeff Shell. “We are outraged at her treatment, and we call on the government of Azerbaijan to release her immediately.”

In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said that Ms. Ismayilova’s arrest appeared to be part of a broader crackdown.

“Broadly speaking, we are deeply troubled by restrictions on civil society activities, including on journalists in Azerbaijan, and are increasingly concerned that the government there is not living up to its international commitments and obligations,” Ms. Harf said.

Amnesty International named this arrest “blatant attempt to gag free media”.

“This move has all the hallmarks of another blatant attempt to gag free media in Azerbaijan – Khadija Ismayilova is one of the last remaining independent voices in the country,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“Today’s detention order comes hot on the heels of a long series of attempts to silence her. The Azerbaijan authorities must stop this harassment of journalists just for doing their jobs.”

OCCRP editor Drew Sullivan said: “This looks and feels like an escalation of the harrassment Khadija has been facing by the government for reporting news relevant to the people of Azerbaijan. I encourage the government to tolerate investigative reporting and release Khadija and the others facing unfair detention.”

Human Rights Watch named this arrest “devastating blow to critical voices in Azerbaijan”.

“Khadija Ismayilova is an inconvenient messenger, and her arrest fits squarely among the Azerbaijani government’s concerted efforts to silence dissenting voices,” said Giorgi Gogia, senior South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch. “She should be released immediately.”

Freedom House called authorities of Azerbaijan to drop the charges and allowed to return to her work.

“Khadija Ismailova has long been a thorn in the side of the Azerbaijani government for her fearless reporting on the corruption of President Aliyev and his family,” said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs. “Indicting her on the bizarre charge of ‘inciting attempted suicide’ shows that the government is determined to eradicate free speech and independent civil society in Azerbaijan at any cost. All charges should be dropped and Ismailova should be allowed to return to her work.”

Human Rights House Foundation called international community, especially the Council of Europe to get a foot in the door to stop the repression in Azerbaijan.

“This sentence does not come as a surprise: we assumed the authorities wanted to silence Khadija Ismayilova,” says Maria Dahle, Executive Director of the Human Rights House Foundation. “The arrest has a chilling effect: one must now consider that every independent civil society leader in Azerbaijan is a target and can be arrested at any given time for any charge, as ludicrous as one can imagine. The international community, especially the Council of Europe, must now get a foot in the door to stop the repression, including by stopping further cooperation with Azerbaijan’s authorities” she added.

Index on Censorship demanded the immediate and unconditional release of journalists and human rights defenders in detention.

“The arrest of Khadija Ismayilova is part of Azerbaijan’s continued crackdown on free media and civil society. This confirms the pattern of intimidation and harassment perpetrated by authorities in an attempt to silence critical voices,” Melody Patry, senior advocacy officer at Index on Censorship, said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ruling and calls on authorities in Azerbaijan to stop their prosecution of Ismayilova, who also faces charges of libel in a separate case.

“We call on Azerbaijani authorities to stop gagging reporters through trumped-up charges and arrests, and immediately release Khadija Ismayilova,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia research associate. “The politicized nature of the arrest is obvious–an award-winning reporter is being harassed for her work in Azerbaijan.”

Robert Hårdh, Executive Director at Civil Rights Defenders”We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Khadija Ismayilova and other journalists and free speech advocates. Ismayilova’s work as a journalist, where she has investigated government corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, is the obvious cause for the arrest”.

The IWMF is gravely concerned about the detention of investigative journalist and 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner Khadija Ismayilova, and is calling on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release her immediately.”

‘The IWMF has no doubt that the charges brought against Khadija Ismayilova are a concerted attempt to silence her and stop her from investigating corruption, malfeasance in the country’s government, and the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani President’s family”, said Elisa Lees Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF. “We call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to respect the principles of press freedom, and immediately release Ismayilova from prison.”

Civic Solidarity Platform called on the Council of Europe to suspend Azerbaijan’s membership until the authorities of the country drop all charges and unconditionally release NGO representatives, lawyers, journalists and political opponents who are currently in detention or prison for their legitimate professional activities, including Khadija Ismayilova, Leyla Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev, Anar Mammadli, Ilgar Mammadov and others.

 

 

Khadija Ismayil’s investigations causing her arrest

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Caricature of VOA: Khadija Ismayil cleaning off corrupt, willful officials and adulating people in Azerbaijan

Journalist Khadija Ismayilova, a Radio Free Europe/OCCRP reporter, was taken into custody in Baku, Azerbaijan on 5 December, in the latest of a series of legal moves to put pressure on her.

Ismayilova, known for her investigations into the business interests of the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, is charged in the latest case of inciting a man to commit suicide.

In 2012, Khadija Ismayil blackmailed with her bedroom scenes. She says that, “These repressions are price we pay for the work we do.”

These are Khadija Ismayil’s investigations causing her arrest:

Azerbaijani president’s Daughters Tied to Fast-Rising Telecom Firm 

Azerbaijan’s President Awarded Family Stake in Gold Fields

President’s Family Benefits From Eurovision Hall

Ismayilova has also been charged in a separate case centering on a document that she posted on social media that indicated Azerbaijani secret services used an explicit, illegally filmed sex tape to blackmail an opposition activist into informing on other opposition figures.

On December 4, Azerbaijan’s Presidential Chief of Staff Ramiz Mehdiyev publicly accused Ismayilova of treason and called RFE/RL’s employees in the country spies.

Ismayilova sees the legal pressure as part of a broader crackdown against civil society by Azerbaijan’s government.

She is known for her extensive reporting on the business interests of President Ilham Aliyev’s family.

In October, Azerbaijani authorities prevented Ismayilova from traveling to Prague, where she had been due to attend an international conference.

“IF I GET ARRESTED”, Khadija Ismayil’s appeal to international community

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February 19, 2014

Things get more complicated here. So there are couple things I want to ask for:

To international Human Rights activists:

You are doing everything right. Keep doing it.

To democratic countries, diplomats, international organizations:

Just in case, I want to remind my request to international community in terms of possible advocacy actions regarding my possible arrest:

Some of you want to help, but can do it only with private diplomacy.

Thank you, but No.

WHEN MY CASE IS CONCERNED,  if you can, please support by standing for freedom of speech and freedom of privacy in this country as loudly as possible. Otherwise, I rather prefer you not to act at all.

I don’t want any private diplomacy for my case. I don’t believe in human rights advocacy behind closed doors. People of my country need to know that human rights are supported.

I also don’t want any release-appreciation trade for my release. My possible arrest will be just one of the more than hundred politically motivated arrest and government of Azerbaijan has managed to use revolving doors of prisons for getting positive feedback from the West: releasing one prisoner, getting praised, arresting two.

To fellow international journalists:

IF/WHEN I get arrested, I want you to make sure that your audience understand the reasons. Anti-corruption investigations are the reason of my arrest. The government is not comfortable with what I am doing. I am about to finish three investigations. I will make sure to finish them before anything happens, if not my editors and colleagues will finish and publish.

İnvestigations I am working on are on the same topic:

Selected reports and investigations:

Latest report (in Azeri) is about Czech company of Arzu Aliyeva, president’s daughter. The company is sold to tax minister’s advisor. Law bans officials from owning businesses and it is not clear where the 1,2 millions EUROSare taken?

2012 President awarded family stake in gold fields

Lucrative gold mining contract signed in 2007 with unknown companies is about to bring millions to it’s secret owners. Khadija Ismayilova and Nushaba Fatullayeva discover familiar names hidden behind offshore companies. Azerbaijani President’s daughters are among beneficiaries.

2012 President’s family has a stake in Eurovision concert hall

Azerbaijan spends hundreds of millions to host Eurovision contest, with more than a hundred millions of public funds invested into the concert hall. Khadija Ismayilova’s investigation traces one of the subcontractors, involved to the expensive project and finds a link to the president’s family. The same company is involved into construction of state funded “patriot” project in 2010– the highest flagpole in the world (which became second highest after Tajikistan beat the record few months later) and shady privatization of energy construction facilities.

2011 Tracking the President’s family business

For more than five years government of Azerbaijan lied to citizens about ownership of the mobile phone operator, naming German Siemens as an owner of Azerfon company, enjoying favorable conditions in the market, not available for competitors. The investigation reveals that president Aliyev’s daughters were behind Azerfon through shell companies in Panama.

2010 President Aliyev’s family and the illegal privatization of the public airport

The investigation conducted with Ulviyya Asadzade documented how President IlhamAliyev’s family was involved in the illegal privatization of the public bank and other parts of state owned Azerbaijan Airlines company, to benefit the Aliyev family. The government never publicly announced the privatization. The report was declared “the best investigation of Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty in 2010” among the 28 language services of the radio.