Center for National and International Studies



“Today, Azerbaijan is governed by Stalin and his NKVD methods. Just as Stalin sent directives demanding ‘beat them until they confess,’ the NKVD executed them…”

(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms

Interrogations of Journalists in the “Smuggling Case” Continue. Journalist Alya Yagublu has been summoned to the Baku City Main Police Department (BCMPD). She informed “Abzas Media” about this herself. Alya Yagublu stated that she was called to the department in relation to the “Toplum TV case.” “They have summoned me for June 6 at 11:00 AM. The person who called identified himself as chief investigator Alibala Hajiyev. This will be my first time being questioned as a witness in this case,” said Alya Yagublu.

Previously, journalists such as Khadija Ismayil, Javid Ramazanov, and others were also questioned as witnesses in this case.

On March 6, the police conducted an operation in Baku related to the independent online television “Toplum TV” and the III Republic Platform. A criminal case was opened under Article 206.3.2 of the Criminal Code (smuggling committed by a group of persons with prior agreement), and a total of nine people were charged. Seven individuals were placed in pre-trial detention, while two were put under police supervision.

The “Toplum TV” team issued a statement asserting that the events were connected to the media outlet’s professional activities and described them as pressure on independent media. The III Republic Platform also declared that the arrests were politically motivated.

Many local and international organizations have recognized those arrested in this case as political prisoners and have called on the authorities to release them immediately.

The Court of Appeals rejected Tofig Yagublu‘s complaint regarding his house arrest and the extension of his detention. During the court session, Tofig Yagublu harshly criticized both the judge and the Aliyev government. Judges Zaur Huseynov and Murad Mammadov presided over the session. Both judges were recently appointed to the Court of Appeals. Tofig Yagublu remarked, “Do you think you are a judge? Putting a BMW badge on a ‘Zapi’ (Zaporozhets) doesn’t make it a BMW. Just because you are wearing a robe, do you think you are a judge? You are slaves to one family. You only carry out their orders! Since 1993 my rights have been violated. How many times can I be falsely accused and imprisoned? I have yet to see a judge make a fair decision in my case because you are all dishonorable slaves!”

Journalist Nargiz Absalamova‘s appeal has been denied. The appeal against the second extension of detention for the journalist, who was arrested in connection with the “Abzas Media case,” has not been upheld.

Political prisoner and disabled person Famil Khalilov, whose body is deteriorating in prison, is being denied visits with his family. According to his family, Khalilov’s ears and surrounding areas are decaying. Previously, they reported that his hands were also deteriorating. His family is not being allowed to visit him. Khalilov’s wife, Kichikkhanim Khalilova, expressed, “This marks our third attempt to visit him in Kurdekhani (detention facility), yet we are consistently being denied the opportunity to see him.”

On June 4, the “III Republic Platform” issued a statement regarding the pressures faced by their imprisoned spokesperson, Akif Gurbanov. The statement highlights that Akif Gurbanov is under severe threats. It states: “A high-ranking state official visited Baku Detention Center and harshly threatened Akif Gurbanov. He was demanded to refrain from making self-defense statements and to avoid mentioning the name of the head of state in his speeches. He was warned that failure to comply would result in mistreatment, including torture. Furthermore, the head of Baku Detention Center, Elnur Ismayilov, personally threatened other illegally detained individuals connected to the ‘Toplum TV‘ and ‘Democratic Initiatives Institute’ cases, stating that their situation would worsen if Akif Gurbanov continued his court speeches. They were warned of harsh consequences if he persisted.”

In his recent court appearance, Akif Gurbanov compared the current administration in Azerbaijan to the Soviet NKVD (The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs). Gurbanov said: “Today, Azerbaijan is governed by Stalin and his NKVD methods. Just as Stalin sent directives demanding ‘beat them until they confess,’ the NKVD executed them.”

The Defense Line Human Rights Organization noted that the investigative authorities investigating the fabricated criminal case against Akif Gurbanov do not adhere to the requirements of criminal and criminal procedural codes, and objectivity, impartiality, and fairness of criminal proceedings are not ensured due to political instructions; on the contrary, additional pressure and threats are exerted in the investigative detention center.

Moreover, The Defense Line” stated that Akif Gurbanov, speaking in the appellate instance, provided detailed answers to the smear campaign taking his source from official circles, provided detailed information about his personal property and wealth to the public, presenting his activity in the Central Election Commission, civil society activities, and reports on his family and spouse’s financial activities, while also criticizing the repressive policy pursued by President Ilham Aliyev, comparing the current political climate and legal system to Stalin and “NKVD” practices. “The Defense Line” expresses deep concern that after the aforementioned speech, additional pressures began at Baku Investigative Detention Center No. 1 on Akif Gurbanov, family members were not allowed to visit him, phone calls were restricted, books sent to him were returned, and he was subjected to repeated and very harsh treatement.

Former MP Huseyn Abdullayev, who has been imprisoned for over six years, is reportedly on a hunger strike in detention. His lawyer, Javad Javadov, stated that Abdullayev initiated the hunger strike to protest against a new charge brought against him and the extension of his detention period, despite his initial sentence nearing completion. Abdullayev is currently held at the Baku Investigation Detention Center in Kurdekhani, and the detention center’s management has been informed about his hunger strike. Abdullayev was sentenced to six years in prison by the Baku Military Court in April 2018. Although this sentence has now expired, he has not been released. In early March, a new criminal case was filed against him, charging him under Article 193-1.3.2 of the Criminal Code (legalization of property obtained by criminal means), which carries a potential sentence of 7 to 12 years imprisonment.

Human rights defender Rufat Safarov has reported that the mother of political prisoner Huseyn Abdullayev, 74-year-old Zeyneb Abdullayeva, has begun a hunger strike. Huseyn Abdullayev is also continuing his hunger strike. Both mother and son are protesting against what they claim to be unlawful charges.

The Defense Line Human Rights Organization expresses deep concern that a new repressive phase denying fundamental human and citizen rights and freedoms is unfolding in Azerbaijan, with increasing political persecution, psychological and physical violence in the regime’s operations, torture, inhuman treatment, and deteriorating conduct becoming widespread.

In its statement, The Defense Line regrets that there is no guarantee of a democratic structure within the framework of the Constitution, and there is a refusal to adhere to the legal state model that ensures the independence of laws as an expression of public will, hindering fundamental freedoms, including speech and opinion, press and information, freedom of assembly, and participation in public and the state’s political life.

“The Defense Line” calls on Azerbaijani society, local and international human rights organizations, representatives of civil society, leaders of political organizations, independent media centers, and Western and European countries’ embassies in Baku to take serious actions to stop illegal actions against III Republic Platform speaker Akif Gurbanov and other prisoners of conscience, and to take urgent, effective, and practical measures to restore the freedom rights of public and political activists.

“The Defense Line” strongly condemns the repressive actions of the judicial authorities and urges the government to pursue a policy of respect for the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and Convention, demanding the immediate release of Akif Gurbanov and nearly 300 other political and conscience prisoners.

During his speech on Tuesday, President Ilham Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan is actively collaborating with the development of small island states, remarking, “We are also actively working with developing small island states and plan to establish a special fund to support them.” However, the President’s comments sparked outrage in Azerbaijan, given the dire state of the country’s economy.

Jamil Hasanli, Chairperson of the National Council of Democratic Forces, reacted to the president’s statement by underlining the urgency of addressing the country’s severe economic situation. Hasanli: “It is necessary to create a special fund to provide child support for the vulnerable children of Azerbaijan who are struggling, for the veterans of Karabakh who have set themselves on fire out of desperation and committed suicide, and to create it for the poor nation whose average monthly wage is even lower than that of Armenia.”

In New Caledonia, the minimum wage is 1645 euros (approximately 2975 manats), while in Azerbaijan, it is 345 manats. New Caledonia ranks 33rd in the world with a GDP per capita of 38,000 dollars, whereas Azerbaijan, with a GDP per capita of 7,000 dollars, ranks much lower.

Amid wider geopolitical tensions, France has leveled accusations against Azerbaijan, alleging interference in its Pacific territory of New Caledonia. The accusations include supporting independence movements and disseminating disinformation. An investigation by RFE/RL has revealed that several individuals associated with Azerbaijan’s ruling party were engaged in what appears to be a coordinated social media campaign aimed at France regarding the recent turmoil in New Caledonia, a French-governed Pacific island. Numerous accounts on X, formerly known as Twitter, were shut down for disseminating disinformation, including misleading photos and videos, according to findings by RFE/RL. This action followed similar allegations made by French authorities. By tracing the digital footprint of some of these suspended accounts, RFE/RL uncovered information about individuals linked to them, including their affiliations or roles within the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), which is headed by President Ilham Aliyev.

June 7, 2024