Azerbaijani activist freed

Azerbaijani Facebook activist Jabbar Savalan was released on 26 December after almost 11 months in prison. The teenager was released by presidential pardon along with 91 other political prisoners.

Savalan was arrested in early February after posting messages on Facebook calling for people to take part in anti-government protests. As with former prisoner Eynulla Fatullayev, he was sentenced on fabricated drug charges not directly related to his activism — a tactic increasingly used by authorities in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani Facebook activist jailed for two years

An Azerbaijani court sentenced opposition activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev to two years’ imprisonment yesterday, 18 May. Hajiyev used Facebook to generate support for the 11 March “Great People’s Day” anti-government protests, but was sentenced on a charge of evading military service. The charge was brought against him in January. As with Eynulla Fatullayev and Jabbar Savalan, Hajiev has been sentenced on charges unrelated to his activism, a tactic that increasingly used by the Azerbaijani authorities. On 14 May, Azerbaijan won the Eurovision Song Contest in Dusseldorf, prompting free speech campaigners to launch fresh criticism on the government’s treatment of critical voices. Hajiyev was arrested prior to the demonstration, on 4 March, and held in pre-trial detention. On 12 May, the European Parliament criticised the crackdown on opposition protests in Azerbaijan and expressed “deep concern” at the increased number of attacks on journalists and civil society activists using social networks to bring attention to their campaigns. European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek is scheduled to begin a visit to Azerbaijan on 20 May. Hajiyev’s lawyer said he was planning to appeal the verdict.