Center for National and International Studies



“We urge the United Nations and Council of Europe bodies, as well as the European Union institutions and all like-minded states to use the momentum created by COP29 in Baku to raise the issue of growing numbers of political prisoners with Azerbaijani authorities on all bilateral and multilateral platforms and request to put an end to the persecution of critical voices…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Anar Mammadli, the head of the Center for Monitoring Elections and Teaching Democracy (SMDT), faces charges under Article 206.3.2 of Azerbaijan’s Criminal Code, accused of organized smuggling, as reported by Turan based on information from his relatives. His sister claims that following a police search, a specific bag used for wrapping money bundles was placed in Mammadli‘s home. She suspects the police planted the money and then “discovered” it, implicating Mammadli in money smuggling. Mammadli has not had any contact with his family since detention and spent the night in the Temporary Detention Isolation Ward of the Khatai District Police Department. The investigation is being led by the Baku City Main Police Department. Family members of Mammadli assert that his detention is linked to the criminal case against Abzas Media, making him the eighth person arrested in connection with the case.

Anar Mammadli had previously been arrested in 2013 and recognized as a political prisoner. He was also honored with the Václav Havel Prize. Earlier, government-affiliated media outlets had mentioned his name among civil society representatives allegedly “working against Azerbaijan with Western funds.” SMDT stands as the sole organization in the country conducting independent election monitoring. Notably, Imran Aliyev, the leader of the only platform monitoring parliamentary activities – the meclis.info website, faced similar charges and was also arrested recently.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) strongly condemns the detention of Anar Mammadli and called on the Azerbaijani government for his immediate release. “With all the scrutiny on Azerbaijan after round after round of arrests of journalists, civic activists, even as it prepares to host upcoming #COP29 , authorities detain prominent civic activist Anar Mammadli. A truly brazen move. He should be released immediately”, wrote Rachel Denber, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, on her “X” social network account.

Moreover, Human Rights House Foundation also urged the United Nations and Council of Europe bodies, as well as the European Union institutions and all like-minded states “to use the momentum created by COP29 in Baku to: Raise the issue of growing numbers of political prisoners with Azerbaijani authorities on all bilateral and multilateral platforms and request to put an end to the persecution of critical voices; Demand immediate release of all political prisoners and restoration of their rights; Ensure that when a country is being assessed as a potential host for global megaevents and conferences, such as COP29, their record with respect to political prisoners, and provision of an enabling environment for human rights defenders and wider independent civil society is a benchmark for eligibility.”

Tajire Mammadzade, a resident of Dashkasan, recounts that her brother was assaulted by the police around a month ago, and he still shows signs of torture. Sahib Mammadzade, who heads the Dashkasan branch of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), has been in custody since March 18th and is held at Investigative Isolation Ward No. 2 in Ganja. Tajire Mammadzade laments the lack of permission to visit her brother and the constraints imposed on family meetings. Tajire Mammadzade reveals that her brother has two children aged 9 and 10, who suffer from hearing impairments. She recounts, “During Ramadan, when my brother’s son wept due to missing his father, it tore my heart apart. I pleaded with the investigator to allow him at least to see his children. He blocked my number, and I am unable to contact him anymore. I hope those responsible for my brother’s arrest and the torment he endured face the same ordeal, both for themselves and their children. Only then will they understand the suffering caused by their actions.” According to Tajire Mammadzade, Sahib Mammadzade informed her during a phone call that he still bears signs of the torture inflicted upon him during his arrest and subsequent detention at the police station. Tajire Mammadzade, who was present with her brother at the time of his arrest, was also subjected to violence for refusing to disclose the access code to her brother’s phone.

Activist Abid Gafarov, currently living in exile, reported that his residence in Shuvalan was raided by plainclothes police officers on April 29th. Gafarov stated that his elderly father-in-law, Alipanah Hashimov, and mother-in-law faced assault during the incident. He said, “Plainclothes police officers unlawfully seized copies of my books ‘Andalunia’ and ‘Death of the Angel’ from my home in Shuvalan. Additionally, they confiscated an old laptop, the household’s video surveillance system, my licensed ‘IJ’ brand shotgun intended for shooting practice, and its accompanying documentation.” Although his father-in-law, Alipanah Hashimov, was initially detained, he was later released. On April 28th, during the “Read” book exhibition at the Academy of Sciences Park, Gafarov‘s book “Andalunia” was confiscated. These books narrate the Tartar massacre, a mass torture that occurred against hundreds of military personnel. Ruslan Farzaliyev, the seller of the book, was also detained. Farzaliyev himself is a victim in the “Tartar case.” On the day of the book fair, Abid Gafarov shared information about the confiscation of his 42 books.

A political prisoner has announced his intention to commit suicide. Ramil Babayev, one of those arrested in the “Toplum TV case,” declared his intention to commit suicide while being brought to court.

The investigation into the “Abzas Media case” has been ongoing for the past six months as the arrests continue. On April 30th, the lawyer’s plea for the release of journalist Elnara Gasimova, detained in connection with the “Abzas Media case,” was reviewed. As per Abzas Media‘s report, Judge Sulhana Hajiyeva presided over the hearing at the Khatai District Court, where the lawyer’s appeal for house arrest was not approved. Gasimova has been in custody since January 13th of this year, marking a period of over three months.

Lawyer Zibeyda Sadigova has highlighted that the condition of detained media expert Alesger Memedli is critical, necessitating immediate medical attention. Sadigova stated, “I visited Alasgar Mammadli two days ago. He mentioned that the swelling in his throat particularly troubles him during the night. He informed me that on Friday, he was taken to the Medical Institution for tests and then brought back to the Investigative Isolation Ward. The process of transportation, examination, and associated procedures exhausts him significantly. He also mentioned experiencing headaches for the past three days.” According to examination records, there is a 23 mm lump in Alasgar‘s throat, indicating the urgency of conducting a biopsy and initiating prompt treatment. However, despite more than a month passing, there has been no substantial action taken for reasons unknown.”

Afiyaddin Mammadov, the head of the Workers’ Solidarity Confederation of Labor Unions, asserts that despite not committing any crime, he has been in detention for seven months. He claims that, in reality, the crime was perpetrated against him, and his rights have been violated both in court and in the investigative isolation facility. On April 30th, the activist provided testimony in the Baku Heavy Crimes Court, where a panel of judges comprising Sabuhi Huseynov, Eldar Ismayilov, and Javid Huseynov oversees his case. Mammadov stated during his testimony that he, along with members of the Workers’ Solidarity Confederation of Labor Unions, Aykhan Israfilov and Elvin Mustafayev, are detained for advocating for the rights of couriers and refusing to turn a blind eye to the violations of their rights.

On August 1st, members of the Workers’ Solidarity Confederation of Labor Unions protested against the police’s confiscation of their vehicles alongside a group of motorcycle-riding couriers. Shortly after the protest concluded, Afiyaddin Mammadov was apprehended near his residence and sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention. Subsequently, on August 4th, Elvin Mustafayev was arrested, followed by Aykhan Israfilov a week later, both on drug charges. After completing his 30-day sentence, Afiyaddin Mammadov was released at the end of August but was detained again on September 20th. This time, he is accused of assaulting a person while walking near the “Hazi Aslanov” metro station. Mammadov rejects all the accusations against him.

Labor rights activists hung a banner in Central Park on May 1st – International Workers’ Day, saying, “Your wealth is stolen from workers!” In a statement released by the Workers’ Solidarity Confederation of Labor Unions regarding this, it was noted that on International Workers’ Day, they stand in solidarity with workers and will continue to fight against labor exploitation until the rights of all workers in the country are ensured. They also demand the release of all prisoners detained for their public-political activities. “We hope for an end to this wave of repression, which tries to extinguish the hope of workers to achieve the life they deserve and to demand their rights, and we hope to live in a flourishing country that we always hear about but can’t feel its existence! We believe that workers will reclaim their rights from the ruling elite who enrich themselves at the expense of their labor!” – the statement reads. It should be noted that currently, four members of the Workers’ Solidarity Confederation of Labor Unions – Afiyaddin Mammadov, Elvin Mustafayev, Aykhan Israfilov, and Mohyaddin Orujov – are in detention. The activists detained on various charges claim innocence and say their detentions are politically motivated.

The consecutive detention of civil society representatives and their summoning by the police continues. Abulfaz Gurbanli, the leader of the “Article 54” Public Association, received a summons to appear at the Baku City Main Police Department (BCMPD). He disclosed this information on social media. “I was called to the Baku City Main Police Department on May 3rd at 11:00, in relation to a criminal case. When I asked, ‘What is the nature of the criminal case?’ they stated that I would be informed upon arrival. I will go,”  Gurbanli wrote on his Facebook page.

For over five months now, journalists and civil society representatives in Azerbaijan have been consecutively detained, and summoned by the police within the framework of various criminal cases. The detained individuals themselves, as well as local and international human rights organizations, consider these detentions to be politically motivated.

Activist Tural Sadigli, who lives in exile, has stated that there is a plan to assassinate him. He wrote on social media: “Currently, there is a serious threat to my life. Several groups affiliated with the Azerbaijani government are working on this. Even some police officers have been sent from Baku. They want to kill me for speaking the truth. Both I and the local police here are aware of the situation. My advice to Ilham Aliyev is to stop these actions! My death will not bring any benefit to Azerbaijan. I am trying to protect myself. May God protect us!”

Recently, member of parliament Zahid Oruj demanded severe punishment and complete neutralization of all foreign-based critics of President Aliyev. Oruj’s statement was perceived as a death threat against activists living abroad.

May 3, 2024