The sentencing of Intigam Aliyev, a respected human rights attorney, to seven and a half years in prison is yet another example of Azerbaijan’s rigged judicial system and the continued stifling of civil society.
“Arrests may take away our freedom, but not the desire to be free. Our arrest is a continuation of our struggle”, Aliyev told the court according to Contact AZ.
Aliyev has been sentenced on charges of tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of authority. These charges are spurious. Aliyev has been imprisoned because he insisted his government respect the rule of law, human rights and the international commitments Azerbaijan is a signatory to.
“Index condemns this latest sentence from Azerbaijan – a country that forms part of the Council of Europe, yet upholds precious few of the human rights it has pledged to protect as part of that grouping,” said Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “As Azerbaijan gets ready to welcome the rest of Europe to the first European Games in June, it is imperative that the rest of the world speaks out against the country’s brazen human rights abuses, and joins us in calling for the immediate release of Aliyev and his colleagues.”
Last week, Aliyev’s civil society colleague Rasul Jafarov was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
Aliyev, chairman of the Legal Education Society, was arrested on 8 August 2014 after being summoned to the Serious Crimes Investigation Department of the General Prosecutor for questioning. He was subsequently charged with tax evasion, illegal enterprise and abuse of power, sent to a pre-trial detention centre, and faced trial. During his time in pre-trial detention, he began to suffer from severe health problems such as chronic headaches and nerve pain. According to the Human Rights House Foundation, he has been denied necessary medical treatment.
Aliyev, who is often referred to as “müəllim” or “teacher”, an honourable title denoting the highest respect in Azerbaijan is one the foremost lawyers litigating cases of human rights violations in Azerbaijan at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Over the last 20 years, he has made over 200 applications to the Court and won more than 40 cases related to freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to fair trial, the right to liberty and security and the right to free elections. Prior to Intigam Aliyev’s arrest, the ECtHR communicated to the Azerbaijani government more than 20 cases representing more than 40 applicants, regarding violations by the Azerbaijani state related to parliamentary elections in 2010. The offices of the Legal Education Society were raided and materials related to all the cases were seized, preventing the applicants from continuing with the litigation themselves.