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

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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.

“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.

Dinara Yunus’ appeal to international community on her mother’s health condition

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“Dear human rights defenders, mum’s colleagues and friends,

I have new, horrifying details on my mother’s dramatically worsening health.  

Her blood sugar levels are 240-248 and her blood pressure is 180-100/220 – 130. Recent blood tests are indicating the start of liver decay.

My mum has lost significant amount of weight. Before the arrest, she weighted 61kg, but now, she is only 48kg. My mum, prominent human rights advocate can hardly move. 

As a result of hyperglycemia, hepatitis and overall weak body, she can hardly eat, most of it comes back right out.

It is absolutely clear to me that this is the manner in which, Azerbaijan’s authoritarian regime decided to physically destroy my mother. If this is the current state of my mom, this means the authorities do not even think someone could photograph her in her present state, with missing teeth and fallen hair.

This photograph would have shown what my mum went through while in prison. 

It is with much difficulty that I write these words. I clearly understand what the criminal regime of Azerbaijan is planning to do: completely destroy my mum and most likely it is going to happen during Christmas and New Year Holidays, when everyone will be on vacation, together with their families. 

It would be very convenient for the authorities to bury my mum during this time – by Muslim tradition, my mum’s hopeless, dead body wrapped into a piece of white cloth and covered with earth.

Then no one will see what this criminal regime had done to her. 

It is very horrifying and painful for me to write this. But I think, writing this now, while she is still barely alive, is better. Maybe it is still possible to save her from the plans of the horrid regime.

Azerbaijan is the member of UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, but none of these organizations have clearly protested against horrifying tortures and destruction of human rights defenders in authoritarian Azerbaijan. Of the very same human rights defenders, who, all their lives, demanded compliance of the human rights and law in this dictatorship.

Please help me save my mum’s life!  

Sincerely,

Dinara Yunus”

HRHF protested for freedom of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

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On November 27, Human Rights Houses Network held a picket demanding immediate and unconditional release of Azerbaijani political prisoners near embassy in Ukraine. Protesters also emphasized upcoming birthday of human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Intigam Aliyev.

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.

Emin Milli about on-going repression in Azerbaijan

As the Director of Meydan.tv Emin Milli visited Oslo on 12 November 2014, we met him to briefly discuss the unprecedented repression on-going in Azerbaijan. He is highlighting that Azerbaijani authorities have decided to silence critical voices.

© Human Rights House Network