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Azerbaijan’s government detains human rights defenders

Index calls on the government of Azerbaijan to release human rights defenders

By Milana Knezevic / 4 August 2014

(Photo: National Endowment for Democracy)

(Photo: National Endowment for Democracy)

Azerbaijani human rights activist Rasul Jafarov has been charged with tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and power abuse and sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention. Jafarov’s detention follows the arrest last week of Leyla Yunus and the disappearance of the print edition of Azadliq from the streets of Baku. Arif Yunus was put under a three month pretrial detention on 5 Aug.

Jafarov, an Index contributor, is a prominent campaigner and critic of Azerbaijan’s government, led by President Ilham Aliyev. He has worked on putting together a detailed list of the country’s some 140 political prisoners and was one of the organisers behind the Sing for Democracy campaign, in connection with the 2012 Eurovision final in Baku. He was charged with three articles of the Penal Code by Rasul Nasimi district court in the capital Baku, following interrogation at the Prosecutor General’s office. Last week he was handed down a travel ban.

His arrest comes days after fellow human rights defenders Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif were charged with crimes including high treason. Last week, Azadliq, of the country’s few remaining independent newspapers, was also forced to suspend publication of its print edition due to financial troubles. The charges against Jafarov are the same as those that in May saw Anar Mammadli, another prominent human rights defender, sentenced to 5.5 years in prison.

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), an Azerbaijani press freedom organisation, said Jafarov’s arrest is “part of a dedicated campaign aimed at suspension of activities of unregistered NGOs in Azerbaijan”. Registering NGOs in Azerbaijan is difficult — Jafarov has reportedly attempted to register his organisation Human Rights Club a number of times without success. As a result, many groups operate without a licence.

There has recently been an escalation in the targeting of opposition voices in Azerbaijan, according to IRFS, who say this crackdown has included state-controlled media smear campaign, raids on NGO offices, confiscation of equipment, suspension of NGO bank accounts, and intimidation and legal pursuit of NGO workers.

In May, Azerbaijan assumed chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, whose tasks include “ensure[ing] that member states comply with the judgments and certain decisions of the European Court of Human Rights”.

“Further deterioration of the situation with fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as repressions against the civil society is incompatible with Azerbaijan’s international commitments, especially in light of its current presidency in the Council of Europe,” said the Civic Solidarity Platform, a network of 60 human rights NGOs of the OSCE region, in a statement.

“We know that the charges against those brave human rights defenders are politically motivated. The authorities want to silence those holding the country to its international obligations and commitments, including within the Council of Europe” said Maria Dahle, Executive Director of the Human Rights House Network.

Index Reports: Locking up free expression: Azerbaijan silences critical voices (Oct 2013) | Running Scared: Azerbaijan’s silenced voices (Mar 2012)

An earlier version of this article stated that Arif Yunus had been arrested last week. This was incorrect. Yunus was arrested on 5 Aug and sentenced to a three month pretrial detention.

This article was posted on August 4, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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About Milana Knezevic

Milana Knezevic is the Assistant Editor, Online and News of Index on Censorship


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One Response to Azerbaijan’s government detains human rights defenders

  1. Basil Venitis

    5 August at 08:28

    Keynote Speaker Basil Venitis, [email protected], http://venitism.blogspot.com

    EU practices double standards on civil rights. It’s freakish for EU to interfere in the civil rights of foreigners, but condone the abuse of my civil rights, a citizen of EU! EU should get its own house in order before lecturing others. EU should rein in Greece, the most corrupt country of Europe with prisoners of conscience, testilying police, malevolent prosecutors, perjurers, and stupidest jurists.


    The political philosopher Edmund Burke once remarked that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good folks to do nothing. A glaring example is my persecution by the government of Greece, which grossly violates my civil rights.


    Martin Niemöller said: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me!


    It’s been now four years since the Pasok government of Greece stole my life, my computer, and my files. Nobody cares, nobody gives a damn! I have done absolutely nothing, and I am being persecuted by the Greek government without any real reason. My ordeal is against all rules of civil society and treaties that Greece has signed. Greece, a country without a functioning justice system, has gone bananas. Graecokleptocrats suffer from the Xenogiannakopoulou Syndrome, using the kangaroo justice as a political tool to gag political opponents. Graecokleptocrats think the laws exist to give them whatever they want!




    On October 18, 2010, a gang of six brutal cops of the violent Greek Cybercrime Unit (CCU), a real godzilla, supervised by a dishonest prosecutor, a disgusting liar, raided my home in Athens and stole my computer, software, files, documents, and personal data.


    The policemen locked me in jail for a night, they humiliated me with handcuffs, fingerprints, mug shots, and lies, leaked false information to the media parrots, and the Greek government initiated sham ex-officio court proceedings for a stack of freakish trumped-up charges!


    There was neither pillow nor toilet facility in my jail cell. I had to urinate in a bottle! I, a 69-years-old man with high blood pressure, was not allowed to keep my hypertension pills with me. There was neither toilet paper nor soap in the whole CCU jail.


    Greece, a country of infinite political corruption, perjury, injustice, and brutal police, must be revamped. Ex-officio law suit, αυτεπαγγελτος, the most dreadful word in justice, means the state sues somebody without involvement of the accuser. This terrible scheme has been used by the freakish Greek government to persecute me.



    Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, sued me, and she wouldn’t show up in court, because the state took over her position!



    At the ex-officio law suit, the accuser just hits and runs! This hit-and-run justice is the most disgusting kangaroo justice on Earth. The accused must be in a position to face his accuser eyeball to eyeball. The right to confront and cross-examine one’s accuser is a sign of civility. The malicious accuser slings false accusations against you, the state takes over, the accuser disappears from the court, and the trial is postponed infinite times! This is penalty of the presumed innocent. This is penalty without trial. This is kangaroo justice of Third World countries! This is barbarity and brutality, pure and simple. Shame, shame, shame on Greece.


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