Thousands of Azerbaijanis took to the street on Sunday, calling for the resignation of President Ilham Aliyev, the release of political prisoners and an end to human rights abuses in the country. The protest comes during an ongoing and wide reaching crackdown on regime critics.
The European Parliament recently called on Azerbaijan — currently chairing the Council of Europe — to release several prominent political prisoners and proceed with reforming the country’s human rights policies. Before being arrested, Jafarov had worked on putting together a detailed list of the country’s political prisoners, with the latest figure coming to 98.
The protest, which also called for closer ties to the European Union, was approved by authorities, but took place in a remote part of Baku.
Journalist Arzu Geybulla has received a growing number of threats on social media following an interview with Azerbaijani news site modern.az.
Geybulla has been subject to ongoing intimidation because of her work at Istanbul-based Armenian paper, Agos. The interview has led to Geybulla being accused of treason by the Azerbaijani media.
Despite calls from the European Parliament in September, Azerbaijan has still failed to release prominent political prisoners Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev and Hasan Huseynli.
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, said: “Azerbaijan portrays itself internationally as a country that values human rights and respects the freedom of its citizens to express themselves. In reality, anyone who seeks to speak or act freely in Azerbaijan is targeted, imprisoned and harassed. The international community needs to take a far tougher stance on Azerbaijan to help defend individuals like Arzu and the defenceless individuals to which her work gives voice.”
Leyla and her husband have now been imprisoned for 73 days. Javarov has been in prison for 70 days since August 2, and Aliyev has been detained for 64 days, since August 8. Huseynli, who has been detained for 195 days since March 30, is serving a six year sentence.
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Please send appeals immediately:
— Condemning the campaign of intimidation directed at Arzu Geybullayeva for her legitimate work as a journalist at Agos;
— Calling on the Turkish and Azerbaijani authorities to investigate any threats of violence against her and to ensure her safety;
— Reminding them that they have the obligation to safeguard Geybullayeva’s right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which they are both state parties.
Mr Ramil Usubov
Minister of Internal Affairs for the Republic of Azerbaijan
7 Husu Haliyev Street
Email: [email protected]
Rasul Jafarov in September 2013 (Photo: Melody Patry)
In early August, Azerbaijani human rights activist Rasul Jafarov was charged with tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship and power abuse and sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention, as part of a crackdown on the country’s human rights groups and dissident voices. This is his appeal to the international community.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
I would like to bring to your attention that the charges brought against me are completely unlawful and groundless. One might ask why? Because,
I was registered as an individual entrepreneur with the tax authorities on 25 August 2008 and obtained a taxpayer identification number (TIN). From that time up until now, I fully and timely paid relevant taxes and social insurance contributions in accordance with the funds paid to me for my services under the projects in which I was involved. It can be easily verified by sending an inquiry to tax agencies.
The Human Rights Club was founded in December 2010, and at the founding meeting I was elected the chairman of the organisation. The Human Rights Club has repeatedly applied to the ministry of justice for registration, but due to unjustified and unlawful denial of state registration, appeals were made to all relevant courts in Azerbaijan, and at present this case is pending before the European Court [of Human Rights]. The process of seeking registration and filing appeals continued from 2011 till 2013; since the legislation during this period did not prohibit the activity of unregistered NGOs, we, as the Human Rights Club, implemented a variety of projects during the years 2011-2013. Each of these projects was carried out under the grant agreements signed with donor organisations which I have voluntarily presented to the prosecutor general’s office. Also, at the time of signing of these agreements, the ministry of justice was informed through relevant letters sent to this state body. Moreover, the funds under each grant were transferred not in a secret or non-transparent manner, but through transfers to the bank accounts open and accessible for law enforcement and other relevant agencies, with the purpose of each transfer being indicated as “grant”. Since the Human Rights Club (HRC) was not registered, as the chairman of the HRC the transfers were made to my bank accounts. In this case, what kind of illegal entrepreneurship or abuse of office or tax evasion one can talk about?
You may wonder then why I was arrested. Let’s pay attention to the projects examined by the investigators and covered by the indictment:
Human rights campaign related to Eurovision — Sing for Democracy; Art for Democracy campaign that uses different types of art to promote and protect human rights; increasing voter turnout on the eve of elections and so on. Along with being in the spotlight of the local and international community, all of these projects were targeted in libellous and insulting articles of the pro-government media which also included the ruling party’s official newspaper Yeni Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani government argues everywhere and at the highest level that there are no political prisoners in Azerbaijan. However I and my colleagues do not argue, but prove that there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
During the session of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe held in June 2014, i.e. shortly before my arrest, a roundtable was held on the gravity of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. I was the person who was directly involved in determination of everything from the technical aspects to the content of the roundtable (together with Intigam Aliyev, Emin Huseynov and Rashid Hajili who are currently persecuted). I was also involved in organising the flash-mob held by our young friends on the day of Ilham Aliyev’s speech. And finally, in the past 2-3 years everyone was asking half-joking, half-serious, when I was going to be arrested. It happened, and now I’m looking forward to your support! Thank you everyone
Baku Pre-Trial Detention Center (Kurdakhani settlement)
14 August 2014
The future for political prisoners in Azerbaijan looks bleak after politicians at the Council of Europe (CoE) failed adopt an important resolution today calling for more than 80 cases to be resolved.
Azerbaijani authorities repeatedly deny the presence of any political prisoners in the country, which commands huge business interests around the world, including among several MPs from the United Kingdom, several of whom voted against the resolution.
The resolution was based on a report by Rapporteur Christoph Strasser, who was repeatedly denied entry into Azerbaijan to carry out his mandate. Several delegates refused to recognise the resolution on grounds that Strasser prepared his report from outside the oil-rich country.
However, free expression advocates welcomed the adoption of a resolution calling for continued monitoring of the country’s record on free speech and human rights, with 196 members voting in favour and only 13 against. The resolution was based on a report by the CoE’s rapporteurs to Azerbaijan, who expressed “growing concern with regard to rule of law and respect for human rights” in the country and encouraged the Azerbaijani government to strengthen its commitment to honour human rights obligations.
Index on Censorship and Crow Hill Films invite you to a screening of Amazing Azerbaijan! followed by a discussion on Azerbaijan and human rights on 30 January.