Updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

1524705_687805391365523_2970606987545747778_n

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

2014: Year of intense government repression in Azerbaijan

1919625_1042580662425796_5401965750490733656_n

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:

NIDA1

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.

1490282

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.

Nils Muiznieks: “All of my partners in Azerbaijan are in jail.”

nils-muiznieks_1Comissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Nils Muiznieks posted this on his Facebook page:

I recently returned from one of the most difficult missions of my two-and-a-half year tenure as Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. In late October I was in Azerbaijan, the oil-rich country in the South Caucasus, which just finished holding the rotating chairmanship of the 47-member Council of Europe. Most countries chairing the organisation, which prides itself as the continent’s guardian of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, use their time at the helm to tout their democratic credentials. Azerbaijan will go down in history as the country that carried out an unprecedented crackdown on human rights defenders during its chairmanship.

All of my partners in Azerbaijan are in jail. It was heart-wrenching to visit Leyla Yunus in pre-trial detention outside of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. Head of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, Leyla is Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights activist and one of three finalists for this year’s prestigious Sakharov award, granted by the European Parliament. I do not know whether it was due to her cataracts or her emotional distress, but she cried throughout our half-hour meeting. The 58-year old also has diabetes, Hepatitis C, and kidney problems. She was in particular anguish for not having had the chance to see Arif, her husband of 26 years, for more than three months. He is also in pre-trial detention, despite having had a stroke just prior to his arrest.

The Yunus couple are among the brave activists in the region that have sought to promote dialogue with their counterparts in Armenia, a country with which Azerbaijan has been at war for the last 25 years over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which was violently wrested from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed. Arif and Leyla Yunus have both been charged with the crime of treason. Leyla regularly compiled lists of the country’s political prisoners for submission to international organisations. On October 24, the day I left Azerbaijan, a Baku court prolonged Leyla’s pre-trial detention for another four months.

Another difficult meeting was with Intigam Aliyev, one of Azerbaijan’s most renowned human rights lawyers, who is also in pre-trial detention for allegedly violating the restrictive provisions which make human rights work virtually impossible in the country. Until his arrest three months ago, Intigam was the coordinator of the Council of Europe’s legal training programme in the country. He was also legal counsel for dozens of cases against Azerbaijan before the European Court of Human Rights. When the authorities seized all of his documents, including the case files, he said he felt like the rug had been pulled from under his feet. He did not know how he could continue pushing the cases at the European Court or how he could defend himself. Again, the day I left Azerbaijan, his pre-trial detention was prolonged for another three months. When the judge announced his decision, Intigam nearly fainted.

I had a more upbeat meeting with Anar Mammadli, winner of this year’s Vaclav Havel prize, granted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Anar has already been convicted to a five–and-a-half year prison sentence for violating the country’s cumbersome NGO laws (the formal charges were tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of authority). Anar was appealing his conviction and was in good spirits, despite the scant chances of success of his appeal. As one of the country’s most professional organisers of election monitoring, Anar had been harshly critical of several previous ballots in the country. Anar spends most of his time exercising and reading books on political science, philosophy and history. He wanted to know how from prison he could provide input to the Council of Europe’s efforts to assist Azerbaijan improve the legal framework for NGOs.

I also left heartened by a meeting with Rasul Jafarov, the head of an NGO called the Human Rights Club. Though he had had his pre-trial detention extended for another three months the day before I met him, Rasul was in good spirits. Rasul made a name for himself by organising a campaign called “Sing for Democracy” in the run-up to the holding of the Eurovision Song contest, which Azerbaijan hosted in 2012. He had planned to organise a new campaign called “Sports for Democracy” in the run-up to the holding of the European Games in Azerbaijan in 2015. Though he is charged with violations of the NGO law, as we bid farewell to each other, he related his plans to organise a human rights NGO among detainees.

While most of my partners are in detention, others discontinued their human rights work, left the country over the summer, or went into hiding as the crackdown spread. I visited one of the activists in hiding, Emin Huseynov, head of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, an NGO defending journalists in Azerbaijan’s restrictive media context. Though Emin is only 35 years old, he has very high blood pressure and an old spinal injury caused by an encounter with Azerbaijani police batons at an “unauthorised” demonstration a few years ago. Doctors who have examined him say he will not survive an Azerbaijani prison.

These are just some of the activists and journalists languishing in prison or under pressure in Azerbaijan. They are core partners for the Council of Europe – they have all attended roundtables for human rights defenders organised by my Office or participated in events organised by the Parliamentary Assembly. The Council of Europe’s primary friends and partners in the country have almost all been targeted. While this pains me deeply, it also makes practical cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe extremely difficult. The reprisals must stop. Now.

Demonstrations near embassies of Azerbaijan to demand release of Political Prisoners

Protests against repressive policy of Azerbaijani ruling regime continue in different countries. On November 17th demonstrations asking freedom for political prisoners in Azerbaijan organized near embassies to Brussels, Warsaw and London.

Demonstration in Brussels organized by Friends of the IDF (FIDF) – Central Region, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), Civic Solidarity Platform, Front Line Defenders and others:

10410573_569193663226697_804305730748427272_n

1799205_569183519894378_3209252854868351744_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another protest was organized by Helsińska Fundacja Praw Człowieka near Azerbaijani embassy to Warsaw:

(Photos © Julia Maria Koszewska)

10687865_10152488336896006_2036679308212303061_o 1514952_10152488136021006_3439297932692585401_n 10393894_10152488135971006_2572593429469002145_n B2qMwOHIUAIxWaK 13260_10152488339046006_2274659833629463363_n 10406950_10152488338566006_9039408584574584895_n

 

And the protest with candles according to number of political prisoners was organized by Index on Censorship, Platform London and others near embassy in London:

(Photos © Ramute Remezaite)

10356012_10152847029548648_6468442987252155186_n10486455_10152847029453648_7219823339578966558_n

Azerbaijani Political Prisoners received Sakharov Freedom Award

1556243_10152400023106689_782156587449855780_o

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee awarded The Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award in 2014 to Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan. On 13 November Azerbaijani civil society representatives, family members of Political Prisoners received the award at ceremony in Oslo.

10655251_10152400449201689_1226471862337056177_o 10712404_10152400276941689_3977615285705166341_o 10560268_10152400449041689_6521265218738930438_o 10394058_10152400330836689_2061956744892205110_n 10368262_10152400359381689_7304410275150989267_n 10428011_10152400382311689_5060644188313119320_n

Full statement from Intigam Aliyev and his lawyer

image

Rights defender Intigam Aliyev refuses all the charges against him. He thinks that there are no legal, but political motives behind those charges. That is, his detention was connected with his activity as human rights defender, and the purpose of this is to silence him down, based on a political instruction from above.

Intigam Aliyev has submitted several complaints to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerning human rights violations in Azerbaijan. He has submitted more than 40 petitions to the European Court in connection with violations that occurred during the 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan, and currently, communication on these cases have been started with the Government of Azerbaijan. So, Intigam Aliyev’s detention is aimed at preventing resolution of those election-related cases against the Government of Azerbaijan by the European Court. It is not accidental that when the investigation search was conducted in the office of the Legal Education Society, headed by Intigam Aliyev, the investigators illegally took all the documents, such as the lawyer’s files, concerning those election-related cases, though those documents are in no way related with the charges raised against him. This basically means that, on the one hand, by physically isolating Intigam Aliyev from the Azerbaijani society, they prevented him from continuing his communication with the European Court on election cases; on the other hand, by taking those court files, they hindered other members of the Legal Education Society or the applicants themselves to carry on the above-mentioned communication. According to the Rules of Court of the ECHR, in such circumstances, it is possible to cancel a case, on the ground that the applicant has lost interest in the result of the case. It should be considered that the complaints sent by Intigam Aliyev to the European Court include not only election-related cases, but also numerous cases on violations of property rights, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and other strategically important legal cases. And all the files regarding those cases have been illegally taken by the investigation bodies. 

Moreover, it should be noted that, to date, majority of the cases on which the European Court has issued judgments against Azerbaijan were the cases submitted by Intigam Aliyev and/or where he was the lawyer of the applicants. 

 All this provide a solid ground to say that the main reason behind Intigam Aliyev’s detention is to avoid adoption of judgments against Azerbaijan by the European Court on the cases he submitted, especially, the cases concerning the results of the 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan. In other words, the main reason is Intigam Aliyev’s activity as rights defender and lawyer in the cases submitted to the European Court.

 Another reason behind Intigam Aliyev’s detention is his speech, as human rights activist, at the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe last month. In that speech, he strongly criticized the policy of the Azerbaijani authorities with regard to human rights situation in the country and talked about the problem of political prisoners, pressures on independent NGOs, arrests of the critics of the government on fictitious charges, gloomy human rights situation in the country, massive violations of citizens’ property rights, etc. In this sense, his arrest is also a violation of the freedom of expression.

 Rights activist Intigam Aliyev considers that his detention is a part of the general policy course aimed at silencing and totally exterminating the independent NGOs in the country. It is no mere coincidence that, in recent months, several other rights defenders have been arrested on similar charges, bank accounts of the leaders of independent NGOs, including the Legal Education Society headed by Intigam Aliyev, have been frozen, and artificial obstacles have been created on registration of grant projects. In this sense, his arrest is also a violation of the freedom of association. 

 This statement was announced and disseminated by lawyer Anar Gasimli, who met with Intigam Aliyev at Baku Pre-Trial Detention Center on 9 August 2014.