The following letter was written by Leyla Yunus, director of the Peace and Democracy Institute, who is currently on trial on spurious charges. Her husband, Arif, a historian and researcher is also on trial. The letter was originally published at Meydan.tv.
They’re planning to wipe us out in agony. Why is that? So that our pain and our deaths become a lesson for all.
They didn’t give me an opportunity to speak in court, but I want my voice to be heard. Finally, I saw Arif. We haven’t seen each other, and I haven’t heard his voice for a year! He celebrated his 60th anniversary in a prison cell, and I’ll have to mark my 60th birthday in duress as well.
We were separated on the 37th anniversary of our wedding, and I already don’t believe that we can be together in this world… with our daughter and the whole family.
Azerbaijan: Silencing human rights
Ongoing coverage of the crackdown on civil society by the government of President Ilham Aliyev
We are both historians, and we are well aware that despotism is based on repressions. Back in the past, [Russian revolutionary Sergey] Stepniak-Kravchinsky wrote: “It’s worse than plague. Plague kills indiscriminately, while despotism chooses its victims from the cream of the nation. ”
Tofiq Yagublu, Anar, Ilgar, Intigam, Hilal, Seymour Ghazi, Khadija, Thale Bagirzade, Movsum Samedov, Yadigar Sadigov, Rasul Jafarov, Rashadat and others from NIDA. More than a hundred of the brightest and cleanest…
In the 80s Arif, and I worked in samizdat newspaper Express-Chronicle published illegally. Then, in 1986 our colleague Anatoly Marchenko died in the Chistopol prison. For me, it was a shock. I am well aware of the deaths in Stalin’s camps, since three brothers of my grandfather passed away there. But in 1986….
At that time, I realized that the terror continued in the USSR, and we had to be ready for it, but I could not assume that the independent Azerbaijan would follow the same path.
As a human rights activist with nearly 30 years of experience, I knew about torture in Azerbaijan. Still, it was hard when I was attacked in the first months of my detention, when on September 23, 2014, Major Yagubov, a young and strong man, started beating me. As a result of these beatings, I lost the ability to see normally with my left eye.
On December 11, 2014, I was dragged by my feet into a solitary confinement without explaining a reason… I heard from Arif that he had also been assaulted during the first days of his arrest…
Arif suffers from stage 3 arterial hypertension. This means strokes, paralysis, hemorrhage, and unpredictable blood pressure hikes. Now he has a tumor on his head. He has been held in a solitary confinement for a year, and he suffers from a persistent pain. It is well-known that I suffer from diabetes and liver decomposition. The EU sent an expensive medicine, but we all understand that in detention this medicine will not be able to help me…
They’re planning to wipe us out in agony. Why is that? So that our agony and our deaths become a lesson for all. If they do not shy away from destroying a well-known family, then others are easy to destroy too. Fear must live in the hearts of citizens. Fear and hopelessness. I have no illusions about this tribunal, as there was no so-called investigation.
Which articles of the law to use in order to fake accusations, make up a crime and sentence a defendant – these orders come to prosecutors and judges from the top. Preparing our indictment, prosecutors got so carried away with the falsification that even a well-known, documented fact of an unlawful destruction of our house on Shamsi Badalbeyli Street 38 was presented as a peaceful move to another apartment. Even the Administrative, Economic, Appeals and Supreme Courts acknowledged the destruction of our house. However, this was clearly an unlawful destruction of property with all assets (archives, computers) on August 11, 2011.
This obvious lie is a clear evidence of how falsified the entire investigation is. Neither the investigators nor the prosecutor fear that their lies can be refuted…
Arif is accused of transferring money from one of his accounts to another. I have witnessed so many trials against political prisoners, given a well-deserved “striped robe” to so many judges, which is why I will definitely not participate in this tribunal. But I’ll just sit with Arif and hold his hand. We both know that this is our last date. When it all breaks down, I will not be there with him … But we are both historians and we know: “wayfarer will seek his way to Lacedaemon so that we … remain faithful to the law.” As my Polish teacher taught me: “For your freedom and ours.”