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:

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

(Photos © Julia Maria Koszewska)

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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)

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Azerbaijani Political Prisoners received Sakharov Freedom Award

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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.

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Appeal of Azerbaijan civil society to CoE Secretary General on Joint Working Group

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Pitiful meeting in Baku epitomizes Council of Europe’s failure to hold Azerbaijan accountable for rights violations

Azerbaijani civil society representatives have called on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE) and CoE member states to demand drastic action in the face of the country’s worsening human rights crisis. The first meeting of the joint working group on human rights issues in Azerbaijan – comprised mainly of pro-government NGOs, government officials and members of parliament — did not come close to heeding the calls for immediate, concrete action, say activists.

The working group was initiated by CoE Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland to “retrieve the dialogue between civil society and Azerbaijani authorities”, according to a Council of Europe press release.

Neither the procedures nor selection criteria for appointment to the working group have been made public, and key figures dealing with the issue of political prisoners were excluded from the process.

This group includes two MPs, Samad Seyidov and Ali Huseynli, who have publically stated that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan, and have accused the recently imprisoned human rights defenders of legal violations. This casts doubt on their capacity to take an objective and balanced approach. Although the working group has more than ten members, its composition lacks independent voices and contributions from figures familiar with human rights issues. This further undermines the group’s stated purpose.

An informal survey of current political prisoners in Azerbaijan revealed that in their view, the vast majority (90%) of the people involved in this working group are viewed as non-objective. More than 10 political prisoners (including Ilgar Mammadov, Tofig Yagublu, Leyla Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, NIDA members and others) have signed a petition declaring their concern over attempts by government controlled NGOs to manipulate their cases for political gain – i.e. to whitewash the government’s repressive policies. The prisoners stated that they do not trust the representatives of such NGOs (including Saida Gojamanli, Sahib Mammadov, Alimammad Nuriyev, Novella Jafaroglu) to provide proper defense of their legal rights.

Perhaps the most notable occurrence in relation to this meeting was that well-known journalist and human rights activist Khadija Ismayilova was disinvited to the meeting at the last minute. Although she received as official invitation to participate in the working group on October 21st, she was not allowed in on the actual day of the meeting. “I was told that I was not on the guest list. I called Vugar Aliyev in the President’s Office, and he said he was surprised and said that it was impossible. Then he called back and said that some of the other participants opposed my attendance,” Ismayilova said.

One of the most vocal opponents of Ismayilova’s participation was Sahib Mammadov, Chairman of the Citizens’ Labor Rights Protection League NGO. Mammadov heads the secretariat of the group, and is notorious for his defamatory comments towards human rights NGOs and international donors. For instance, during the most recent session of the OSCE/ ODIHR in Warsaw in September, he accused Azerbaijan’s human rights NGOs of money laundering and lack of transparency – which, he argued, justify the repressive policies of the regime.

The majority of the members of the current Working Group have previously served as members of the Committee for Public Control over Penitentiary Service under the Ministry of Justice. The failure of this Committee to function effectively is discouraging in relation to the activity of the current Working Group.

We would like to emphasize in particular that this group has been designed to reduce the role of the Co-rapporteur on Political Prisoners, who is mandated to prepare a report. The main task of the Working Group will be to contribute government-approved views, under the guise of an independent voice.

Thus at an event billed as an opportunity for dialogue between civil society and government, aimed at achieving concrete improvements to the human rights situation, human rights defenders are unwelcome. The ongoing harassment of Khadija Ismayilova and the prevention of her participation in the working group is nothing but a full-blown assault on values the Council of Europe has pledged to uphold.

Secretary General Jagland,

Council of Europe member states:

The alarm bells keep ringing. There are more than 90 political prisoners behind bars. Presidential pardons for innocent people who have been imprisoned for expressing their opinions is not a solution to the human rights crisis in Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe and its member states cannot continue to ignore the situation. Azerbaijan’s civil society is ringing the alarm. The Council of Europe needs to answer this call.

The lawyer of Leyla Yunus and Intiqam Aliyev on October 24th trials

wpid-collage.jpgYesterday (24 October 2014), Nasimi Rayon Court considered the investigation’s motion to extend Intigam Aliyev and Leyla Yunus‘s detention period, as well as the defense’s motion for the sentence to be replaced with house arrest or bail.

Regarding Intigam Aliyev. I. Aliyev’s health deteriorated suddenly (though in fact, it was as a result of existing health problems, and particularly a brain trauma received in 2012). His right leg seized up and he nearly lost consciousness. The reason for this was that he was brought to the court in a badly ventilated convoy car with 8-9 other people. The fact of I. Aliyev being kept in airless conditions, and being brought to court in such a vehicle, caused (and will continue to cause) his existing head injury to deteriorate. The situation being critical, I motioned the court to grant a medical examination considering I. Aliyev’s health.

However, the court did not consider the motion and sent it to the General Prosecutor’s Office for Grave Crimes. The court granted the investigation’s motion to extend I. Aliyev’s  detention period, extending his imprisonment period to 8 February 2015. The court however dismissed our motion for I. Aliyev to serve the appointed period on bail or under house arrest.

The appeal will be contested. Also, we will file the relevant legal appeals and complaints regarding Intigam Aliyev’s health to the management of the Baku Detention Facility.

Regarding Leyla Yunus. Leyla Yunus’s previous health problems remain. She finds it difficult to move freely. She can move if supported by another person or object.

However, the court adopted the investigation’s motion to prolong Leyla Yunus’s detention period, extending her imprisonment to 28 February 2015.

The court dismissed our motion for Leyla Yunus to serve the appointed
period on bail or under house arrest.

The appeal will be contested.

Three NIDA members and Hasan Huseynli free!

NIDACHIFour political prisoners which appealed President Ilham Aliyev for pardon free. They are NIDA members Shahin Novruzlu, Bakhtiyar Guliev, Elsevar Mursalli and human rights defender Hasan Huseynli.

Today President İlham Aliyev signed a pardon decree. NİDA members and Hasan Huseynli are also in the list those pardoned.

This situation also shows that their detainment is politically motivated and court system is under imagescontrol of regime.

Who is next in Azerbaijan?

It’s not excluded that crackdown against civil society will continue in Azerbaijan with new arrests. The question is “Who is next?”. Two critical trials this week:

092900091832Alayif Hasanov – a lawyer of Leyla Yunus and other political prisoners. His trial will be held on 8 October. He may be arrested.

Yasamal District Court of Baku considered a lawsuit by Nuriya Huseynova – cellmate of Leyla Yunus, filed against lawyer Alaif Hasanov on 29 September. Hasanov himself was absent in the court. Hasanov unveiled facts of physical pressure by Huseynova on Yunus in the jail cell, where they are present together. One of his statements was published in the newspaper “Azadlig” September 17, 2014. Thereafter, Huseynov said that the lawyer called her “a criminal”, calling it an insult. Hasanov said that Huseynova was previously judged, and her current term in prison has not expired.  The lawyer believes that the authorities use Huseynova, to remove him from the protection of Yunus.  The lawyer pointed out that a copy of the article in “Azadlig” newspaper was attached to the suit. “It turns out that Huseynova is a regular reader of “Azadlig”, and gets it even in jail, while lawyers bags are carefully checked , so that to prevent getting  the newspaper “Azadlig” to jail.

“I’m not guilty, but my detainment is real.”

10665830_10203652814979384_7153706528451201757_nKhadija Ismayilova – an investigative journalist. Her trial will be held on 9 October. She may be arrested.

Khadija Ismayilova, who is known for her extensive reporting on the business interests of the family of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and who hosts a daily program for RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, said a criminal libel case has been opened against her and she has been ordered to appear in court on October 3.

“I have been warned that, upon returning from my trip, I will be facing arrest and maybe this is another way to warn me,” she told RFE/RL in a telephone interview. “I believe they want me either not to go back to Azerbaijan or to be scared and not be loud about things in Azerbaijan. They have to understand that this is not the way to deal with me.”

(Will be updated)

Demonstration in front of European Parliament againist Aliyev regime

Today a number of political refugees protested repressions againist sivil society in Azerbaijan. Action took place in front of European Parliament in Brussels. Activists from NİDA Civic Movement, DAH, Senlibart and others joined the demonstration.

“Aliyev clan is best proof of European double standards.”

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